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Entered,  according  lo  Act  of  Congress,  in  the  year  1840,  by 
N.  1.  Bowditch, 

Hi  the  Clerk's  Office  of  the  District  Court  of  Massachusetts. 


mi  1  \  mi 


The  following  Memoir  has  been  printed  as  part  of  the  Fourth  Volume  of  Dr. 
Bowditch's  Translation  of  the  Mecanique  Celeste.  A  short  notice,  containing  the 
outline  of  the  present  one,  with  only  a  few  of  its  details,  was  written  by  the  author 
during  his  father's  last  illness  and  upon  the  day  of  his  death.  It  was  prepared  solely 
for  the  private  perusal  of  a  few  friends,  without  any  view  to  its  publication.  Six 
months  passed,  and  the  volume  which  had  been  left  unfinished  by  the  Translator  was 
completed.  At  this  time,  it  was  suggested  by  the  family,  that  with  it  should  be 
published  the  original  notice,  prepared  as  above  mentioned.  This  led  the  author, 
who  was  conscious  of  its  defects  and  omissions,  to  write  it  again  in  the  form 
in  which  it  is  now  laid  before  the  reader.  Several  of  the  notes  were  added  from 
day  to  day  during  the  process  of  stereotyping,  which  continued  from  the  month  of 
November  to  the  sixteenth  of  March,  being  exactly  one  year  after  Dr.  Bowditch's 
death.  Though  the  delay  has  been  greater  than  was  wished  or  expected,  it  has 
probably  contributed  somewhat  to  the  accuracy  and  completeness  of   the  Memoir. 

Of  the  Mecanique  Celeste  only  five  hundred  copies  have  been  printed,  the 
greater  part  of  which  will  probably  remain  unsold  for  several  years,  as,  from  the 
nature  of  its  subject,  it  must  necessarily  find  but  few  readers,  besides  that  it  is 
contained  in  four  large  and  expensive  quarto  volumes.  The  author  has,  therefore, 
caused  to  be  printed  a  small  extra  edition  of  the  Memoir,  chiefly  with  the  view 
of  presenting  it  to  such  individuals  as  he  believed  would  feel  an  interest  in  the 
account  which   he   has   given   of   his  father's  life   and   character. 

Boston,  May,  1839. 


The  writer  offers  this  Memoir  to  the  public  by  the  advice  of  several  friends,  who 
believe  that  the  example  of  Dr.  Bowditch  will  be  useful  wherever  it  is  known,  and  that 
it  will  be  especially  encouraging  to  the  young.  The  quarto  form  of  the  volume  has 
been  retained  on  account  of  the  engravings,  and  as  being  the  least  expensive,  since  it 
permits  the  use  of  the  existing  stereotype  plates. 

Boston,  May,  1840. 

(2  llc\A  -q,    <JociodW^n 


[D edication  referred  to  in  p.   111.] 



Ko  tfje  f&emorg  of.  fjis  QMitz, 












The  children  of  the  late  Dr.  Bowditch  feel  assured  that  every 
reader  of  this  Translation  and  Commentary  will  be  desirous  to 
know  something-  of  the  life  and  character  of  him  who  planned 
and  executed  so  vast  a  work,  and  of  her  to  whose  memory  it  is 
dedicated.  We  have  been  blessed  in  our  parents  far  beyond  the 
lot  of  others.  Such  a  father  and  such  a  mother  are  but  rarely 
given  by  Heaven  to  any  one.  Both  now  sleep  in  the  grave ;  and 
our  kindred  dust  will  soon  be  mingled  with  theirs  in  that  last 
resting-place.  But  after  the  lapse  of  many  years,  this  work, 
devoted  to  the  elucidation  of  one  of  the  most  abstruse  and  profound 
subjects  of  human  investigation,  will  still  endure,  a  memorial  of 
the  genius  of  its  author.  Upon  this  monument  we  would  inscribe 
our  filial  tribute  —  a  record  of  the  parents'  virtues,  of  the  children's 
gratitude  and  affection. 

Nathaniel  Bowditch  was  born  at  Salem,  in  Massachusetts, 
March  26,  1773,  being  the  fourth  of  seven  children  of  Habakkuk 
Bowditch,  by  his  wife  Mary,  who  was  the  daughter  of  Nathaniel 
Ingersoll.  His  ancestors  had  always  resided  in  that  place  from 
its  earliest  settlement,  having  been,  for  the  four  last  generations, 
ship-masters.     Tradition    has    handed    down  the  fact,   that    three 

VOL.    IV.  c 

10  MEMOIR. 

brothers,  Jonathan,  Joel,  and  William  Bowditch,  emigrated  to  this 
country  from  England,  and,  as  is  believed,  from  the  city  of  Exeter, 
or  its  immediate  vicinity.  William  became  an  inhabitant  of  Salem 
in  1639.  His  humble  situation  in  life  may  be  inferred  from  the 
title  of  "  Goodman,"  by  which  he  is  mentioned,  as  distinguished 
from  the  more  dignified  appellation  of  "  Mr."  He  was  living  in 
1649,  in  which  year  he  had  a  grant  of  thirty  acres  of  land  from 
the  town.      The  time  of  his  death  is  unknown. 

He  left  an  only  child,  of  the  same  name,  who  was  born  in 
1640,  and  died  in  1681.  He  was  collector  of  the  port  of  Salem 
under  the  Colonial  government,  and  owned  a  warehouse  and 
other  real  estate,  and  several  small  vessels,  but  died  insolvent. 
He  likewise  left  an  only  child,  also  named  William,  who  was  born 
in  September,  1663,  and  died  May  28,  1728,  in  the  sixty-fifth 
year  of  his  age.  He  was  actively  engaged  as  a  ship-master  for 
many  years,  and  was  well  known  as  an  enterprising  merchant.  A 
dangerous  rock  in  the  channel  of  the  harbor,  of  which  the  original 
Indian  name  was  "  Tenapoo,"  still  bears  the  name  of  "  Bowditch's 
Ledge,"  which  was  given  to  it  in  consequence  of  a  vessel  called 
the  "  Essex  Galley,"  under  his  command,  having  struck  upon  it 
about  the  year  1700.  He  was  for  many  years  one  of  the  selectmen 
for  managing  the  affairs  of  his  native  town,  and  served  also,  during 
several  sessions,  as  a  representative  in  the  General  Court  of  the 
Province.  He  married,  August  30,  1688,  Mary,  the  daughter  of 
Thomas  Gardner,  Esq.,  a  wealthy  merchant.  She  died  in  1724, 
four  years  before  her  husband.  He  left  an  estate  valued  at  between 
four  and  five  thousand  pounds.  The  grave-stones  of  both  husband 
and    wife    arc    still    to    be    seen   in   the    burial-ground    at    Salem, 

MEMOIR.  11 

though  the  inscriptions  are  partially  effaced.  There  were  eleven 
children  from  this  marriage,  the  seventh  of  whom  was  Ebenezer, 
who  was  born  April  26,  1703,  and  died  February  2,  1768,  also 
in  the  sixty-fifth  year  of  his  age.  He  was  the  only  son  of  this 
numerous  household  who  left  male  descendants,  and  thus  became 
the  common  ancestor  of  all  who  now  bear  the  family  name  in 
Salem.  He  married,  August  15,  1728,  Mary,  the  daughter  of 
the  Hon.  Jobn  Turner,  one  of  the  most  distinguished  citizens  of 
Salem,  long  a  member  of  the  Provincial  Council,  and  well  known 
in  the  local  history  of  that  time.  The  annalist  of  Salem  says  of 
him,   "His  deserts  were  equal  to  his  honors."* 

Ebenezer  Bowditch  preserved  through  life  an  irreproachable 
character,  and  possessed  in  a  high  degree  the  confidence  and 
respect  of  the  community.  He  pursued  his  father's  occupation, 
but,  as  it  seems,  without  much  success,  since  he  left  but  little 
property  at  his  death.  His  wife  survived  him  till  May  1,  1785, 
living  in  reduced  circumstances,  and  being  dependent  upon  her 
young  grandson,  the  subject  of  this  memoir,  for  many  little 
attentions,  by  which  her  declining  years  were  rendered  more 
comfortable.  They  had  six  children,  of  whom  the  fifth  was 
Habakkuk,  born  in  1738.  He  also  was  in  early  life  a  ship-master, 
and,  as  was  the  custom  of  that  day,  learned  the  trade  of  a 
cooper,  a  practical  acquaintance  with  which  was  then  deemed 
an  important,  though  subordinate  qualification  for  the  discharge 
of  the  appropriate  duties  of  his  situation.  At  the  commencement 
of  the    revolutionary  war,    he  met  with  misfortunes    in    business, 

*  Annals  of  Salem,  from  its  first  Settlement;   by  Joseph  B.  Felt;  p.  423. 

12  MEMOIR. 

by  which  his  circumstances  became  very  much  reduced  ;  and  he 
was  so  disheartened,  that  he  had  not  the  energy  to  attempt  to 
retrieve  them.  He  subsequently  worked  at  the  trade  of  a  cooper, 
which  he  had  originally  learned  from  the  motive  above  stated. 
But  he  was  able  in  this  manner  to  earn  only  a  scanty  subsistence 
for  his  wife  and  children.  Some  idea  may  be  formed  of  his 
poverty,  from  the  circumstance  that,  for  many  successive  years, 
he  received  fifteen  or  twenty  dollars  annually  from  the  charity 
funds  of  the  Salem  Marine  Society,  of  which  he  was  a  member, 
deriving  from  this  sum,  .small  as  it  was,  quite  an  essential  aid 
toward  the  support  of  his  family.  He  was  a  man  very  remarkable 
for  strong  natural  good  sense,  but  had  enjoyed  no  advantages 
of  education.  He  was  an  attentive  observer  and  an  intelligent 
judge  of  men  and  events  as  they  passed  before  him.  He  was 
extremely  conversant  with  the  Scriptures,  and  entertained  liberal 
and  enlightened  views  on  the  subjects  of  religion  and  revelation. 
He  possessed  a  cheerful  temper  and  an  amiable  disposition.  But 
having  yielded  to  the  reverses  which  he  had  encountered,  and 
which  would  but  have  stimulated  others  to  greater  efforts,  he 
outlived  those  prospects  of  usefulness  and  happiness,  which, 
upon  his  entrance  into  life,  seemed  to  be  within  his  reach.  Upon 
one  occasion,  his  son,  alluding  to  the  latter  years  of  his  father's 
life  as  having  been  less  happy  than  his  earlier  ones,  expressed 
the  hope  that  he  might  not  himself  "  live  too  long."  Habakkuk 
Bowditch  was  married  July  23,  1765,  and  died  July  18th,  1798, 
at  the  age  of  sixty  years. 

Mary,  the  wife  of  Habakkuk  Bowditch,  had  died  December  16, 
1783.       She  was  an  excellent  woman,  discharging  all  the  duties 

MEMOIR.  13 

of  life  with  exemplary  fidelity.  By  her  death  Dr.  Bowditch 
was  deprived  of  his  earliest  and  best  friend,  at  the  age  of  ten 
years.  But  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  she  had  lived  long  enough 
to  exercise  a  most  salutary  influence  over  her  son's  mind,  and 
that  it  is  in  a  great  degree  to  the  teachings  and  example  of  this 
pious  and  affectionate  mother,  that  we  may  trace  the  inflexible 
integrity,  the  unwavering  love  of  truth,  and  the  high  moral 
principle,  for  which  he  was  through  life  distinguished.  From  her 
he  learned  his  first  lesson  as  to  the  value  of  truth.  While  a  child, 
playing  behind  his  mother's  chair,  he  had,  unobserved  by  her, 
unrolled  a  ball  of  yarn,  from  which  she  was  knitting,  and  involved 
it  in  inextricable  confusion.  When  she  discovered  the  mischief, 
and  addressed  him  with  some  severity  of  manner,  he  denied  having 
done  it.  She  at  once  entered  into  a  very  serious  conversation 
with  him,  and  while  she  told  him  that  the  original  matter  of 
offence  was  but  trifling,  she  explained  to  him  so  fully  the 
meanness  and  criminality  of  falsehood,  and  urged  him  with 
so  much  earnestness  never  again  to  be  guilty  of  it,  that  this  lesson 
of  his  infancy  became  indelibly  impressed  upon  his  heart.  He 
was  always  a  favorite  child.  She  was  interested  in  the  early 
development  of  his  character  and  talents,  and,  it  is  said,  was 
sometimes  obliged  even  to  restrain  and  check  his  fondness 
for  study,  as  being  excessive.  She  has  been  heard  to  say  that  he 
would  be  "  something  decided."  To  use  his  own  expression,  "  she 
idolized  him  ;  "  and  he  never  spoke  of  her  but  in  terms  of  the 
most  respectful  and  affectionate  remembrance.  Her  excellent 
influence  extended  to  all  her  children.  They  grew  up  together, 
as  one  observed  of  them,  "  a  loving  household,"  remarkable 
vol.  iv.  d 

14  MEMOIR. 

as  a  family  for  their   excellent  moral  character   and  their  strong 
mutual  attachment. 

Dr.  Bowditch  survived  all  his  brothers  and  sisters  for  nearly 
thirty  years.  The  eldest,  Mary,  born  March  27,  1766,  took  upon 
herself,  after  her  mother's  death,  the  whole  charge  of  the  family, 
and  almost  supplied,  towards  the  younger  children,  the  place  of 
that  excellent  parent  whom  they  had  lost.  She  married,  April 
20,  1791,  Mr.  David  Martin,  a  ship-master,  who  died  a  few  years 
afterwards.  She  herself  died  December  2,  1808,  at  the  age  of 
forty-two  years,  leaving  to  her  brother's  care  an  only  child,  who 
afterwards  always  resided  in  his  family,  repaying  his  kindness 
by  the  attentions  of  a  daughter,  and  being  to  us  as  an  elder 
sister.       As    such,  she  unites  with  us  upon  the  present  occasion. 

The  second  child,  Habakkuk,  was  born  May  2,  1768,  and 
was  drowned  in  Boston  about  forty  years  ago.  It  is  not  known 
that  he  manifested  any  peculiar  taste  for  the  study  of  mathematics. 

The  third  child,  Elizabeth,  was  born  May  16,  1771,  and  died 
December  9,  1791,  in  consequence  of  a  fall  down  a  flight  of 
steps,  having  lingered  in  great  agony  a  short  time  after  the 
accident.  Dr.  Bowditch  often  mentioned,  with  much  emotion,  the 
circumstances  of  the  death  of  this  sister,  who,  being  but  two 
years  older  than  himself,  had  always  been  the  object  of  his 
peculiar  regard  and  affection.  In  the  midst  of  life  and  health, 
and  with  a  countenance  radiant  with  smiles  and  joy,  she  was 
about  to  leave  her  friends  for  a  few  moments,  when  a  single 
misstep  removed  her  from  them  forever. 

MEMOIR.  15 

The  fifth  child,  William,  was  born  May  5,  1776.  He 
embraced  a  sea-faring  life,  and,  while  absent  upon  one  of  his 
voyages,  died  at  Trinidad,  in  the  autumn  of  1799,  at  the  a^e 
of  twenty-three  years.  He  was  quite  as  remarkable  for  his 
mathematical  talents  as  his  elder  brother,  and,  had  he  lived, 
might  perhaps  have  been  equally  distinguished  for  the  successful 
cultivation  of  this  branch  of  science.  In  the  first  edition  of  the 
Practical  Navigator  he  is  mentioned  as  the  author  of  one  of 
the  notes  to  Table  XIV.  Dr.  Bowditch  delighted  to  speak 
of  the  purity,  and  almost  holiness  of  character  of  his  brother 
William ;  and  another,  who  knew  well  his  early  virtues,  has 
said  of  him,  "  He  was  sanctified  from  his  birth." 

The  sixth  child,  Samuel,  was  born  September  13,  1778,  and 
died  April  5,  1794,  at  the  age  of  sixteen  years.  He  also  possessed 
great  quickness  at  mathematical  calculations.  But  he  pursued 
his  studies  with  a  waywardness  and  eccentricity  which  would 
probably  have  prevented  his  acquirements  from  being  as  great 
as  might  have  resulted  from  a  more  regular  and  systematic 
cultivation  of  his  naturally  excellent  talents. 

The  seventh  child,  Lois,  was  born  March  29,  1781,  married 
her  cousin,  Mr.  Joseph  Bowditch,  September  28,  1806,  and  died 
without  children,  July  29,  1809,  aged  twenty-eight  years.  The 
eldest  and  youngest  daughters  only  of  this  family  were  married, 
and  they 'were  also  both  on  their  death-beds  at  one  time  and  place, 
prostrated  by  the  same  fatal  disease,  consumption.*     Dr.  Bowditch, 

*  One  of  them,  at  this  time,  presented  to  the  eldest  child  of  Dr.  Bowditch  a  little  silver 

16  MEMOIR. 

in  his  last  illness,  said  that  it  had  always  been  a  source  of  pleasure 
to  him  to  remember  that  these  sisters,  when  dying,  had  each  told 
him  that  he  had  been  through  life  a  good  brother  to  them ; 
"  but,"  added  he,  "  it  gives  me  greater  pleasure  now  than  ever 
before."  He  also  said  that  "  they  died  with  the  calmness  of  two 
Stoics."  He  once  mentioned  that,  in  settling  the  estate  of  his 
deceased  sister,  the  Judge  of  Probate  thought  that  he  had 
discovered  a  mistake  in  the  fact  that  the  estate  had  not  been 
represented  insolvent,  although  more  money  had  been  paid  away 
than  had  been  received.  The  matter  was  explained,  however, 
by  the  statement  of  the  administrator,  that  he  should  have  felt 
himself  disgraced  by  leaving  undischarged  the  few  small  debts 
incurred  by  his  sister,  chiefly  during  her  last  illness,  while  he 
possessed  any  means  of  his  own  with  which  to  pay  them. 

Such  were  the  parents  and  such  the  brothers  and  sisters 
of  Dr.  Bowditch  ;  and  amid  the  domestic  influences  which  have 
been  described  were  the  years  of  his  infancy  and  childhood  passed. 
Many  amusing  and  interesting  incidents  of  this  period  of  his  life 
might  be  mentioned.  It  was  one  to  which  he  himself  always 
recurred  with  pleasure,  as  having  been  very  happy,  notwithstanding 
its  many  privations.  If  he  was  obliged,  from  motives  of  economy, 
to  wear  the  thin  garments  of  summer  when  the  near  approach  of 
winter  made  them  less  comfortable,  he  would  reply  to  the  laugh 
of  his  schoolmates  or  playfellows  by  charging  them  with  effeminacy 
for  preferring  warmer  clothing.     If,  as  was  often  the  case,  he  sat 

medal,  bearing   upon    it    their   names,   and   the    inscription,   "  Virtue   and   Religion  lead   to 
Happiness."     Such  had  been  the  result  of  her  own   experience. 

MEMOIR.  17 

down  to  a  dinner  consisting  chiefly  of  potatoes,  he  felt  that  a 
mealy  potato  was  as  good  fare  as  he  desired.  He  humorously 
described  one  occasion,  upon  which,  when  sent  to  buy  a  warm 
loaf  of  bread  for  breakfast,  he  found  himself  unable,  on  his  way 
home,  to  resist  the  temptation  of  gradually  eating  out  the  soft  part, 
so  that,  upon  his  arrival,  the  upper  and  under  crusts  had  come  in 
contact.  Possessing  health  and  activity  of  body,  he  engaged  at 
one  moment  with  earnestness  and  ardor  in  all  the  amusements 
of  boyhood,  and  in  the  next  returned  with  increased  pleasure  to 
his  studies.  Yielding  sometimes  to  the  impulse  of  the  moment, 
as  in  the  instance  last  cited,  he  committed  trifling  indiscretions, 
but  nothing  mean  or  vicious  was  ever  developed  in  his  character. 
Blessed  with  a  joyous  and  happy  temper,  he  contentedly 
accommodated  himself  to  the  necessities  of  his  situation.  The 
son  of  a  poor  mechanic,  with  no  expectations  from  family  or 
friends,  he  had  within  him  an  energy  of  purpose  by  which  he 
was  finally  to  surmount  all  obstacles. 

While  he  was  yet  in  his  infancy,  his  father  removed  with 
the  family  from  Salem  to  the  adjoining  village  of  Danvers,  and 
resided  there  several  years.  The  house  which  he  occupied  is  still 
standing.  It  is  a  humble  cottage.  The  main  building,  as  seen  in 
front,  exhibits  but  one  door  and  one  window.  It  was  here  that 
his  mother  first  showed  him  the  slight  crescent  of  the  new  moon, 
and  the  fuller  orb  of  the  harvest  moon,  and  perhaps  first  awakened 
in  his  mind  a  curiosity  to  know  more  of  the  nature  and  laws 
of  the  planetary  system.  He  here  received  instruction  from  a 
school-mistress,  whose  aged  relatives  still  live  in  the  immediate 
vicinity,  and  by  whom  it  is  distinctly  remembered  that  he  was 
vol.  iv.  e 

18  MEMOIR. 

"  a  likely,  clever,  thoughtful  boy ; "  that  "  his  instructress  took 
mightily  to  him ; "  that  "  he  was  the  best  scholar  she  ever 
had  ;  "  that  "  he  learnt  amazing  fast,  for  his  mind  was  fully  given 
to  it ; "  and  that  "  he  did  not  seem  like  other  children ;  he 
seemed    better." 

Upon  the  return  of  the  family  to  Salem,  he  was  sent,  at  the 
age  of  seven  years  and  three  months,  to  the  best  school  in  the 
town,  kept  by  a  Mr.  Watson.  The  character  of  this  "  seminary 
of  learning "  may  perhaps  be  better  realized  from  the  following 
circumstances  than  from  any  more  general  or  elaborate  description 
of  it.  There  was  but  one  dictionary  in  the  school ;  and  a 
gentleman,  who  was  a  fellow-pupil  with  Dr.  Bowditch,  never 
saw  one  while  he  was  there.  Each  day,  the  scholars  were 
called  upon  to  spell  aloud,  all  together,  in  chorus,  the  word 
honorific abilitudinity ;*  spelling  and  pronouncing  the  first  syllable, 
then  the  two  first,  three  first,  &c,  which  process,  applied  to  the 
whole  word,  of  course  occupied  several  minutes.  He  early 
showed  a  great  fondness  for  mathematics ;  but,  on  account  of 
his  extreme  youth,  his  master,  it  is  said,  refused  to  permit  him 
to  enter  on  that  branch  of  study  until  he  had  obtained  and 
produced  from  his  father  a  special  request  to  that  effect.  He, 
upon  one  occasion,  solved  a  problem  in  arithmetic,  which  the 
instructer  thought  must  be  above  his  comprehension,  and  therefore 
charged  him  with  having  procured  the  assistance  of  some  older 
scholar,  giving  him  a  severe  reprimand  for  the  attempt  to  deceive 
him.     The  timely   interference    and    explanations,   indeed,   of   his 

*  This  word,  meaning  honor,  may  be  found  in  Bailey's  English  Dictionary;  and 
Shakspeare   uses   honorificabilitudinitatibus,   in    Love's   Labor   Lost,  Act  5,  Scene  1. 

MEMOIR.  19 

eldest  brother,  saved  him  from   any  actual   chastisement ;  but  this 
indignity  and  act  of  injustice    Dr.    Bowditch  never  forgot. 

But  even  the  slight  elementary  instruction  which  he  might 
have  obtained  at  this  school,  he  was  obliged  to  forego  altogether 
at  the  age  of  ten  years  and  two  months,  when  he  was  taken  by 
his  father  into  his  cooper's  shop,  that  he  might  by  his  labor  assist 
in  the  support  of  the  family.  After  remaining  here  a  short  time, 
he  entered  as  a  clerk  or  apprentice  into  the  ship-chandlery  shop  of 
Messrs.  Ropes  and  Hodges,  when  he  was  about  twelve  years  of 
age.  In  this  shop  he  remained  till  his  employers  retired  from 
business,  at  which  time,  as  early  as  1790,  he  entered  the  similar 
shop  of  Mr.  Samuel  Curwin  Ward,  where  he  remained  until  he 
sailed  on  his  first  voyage,  in  1795.  Here,  when  not  engaged  in 
serving  customers,  he  spent  his  time  in  reading,  and  particularly  in 
the  study  of  mathematics,  for  which  he  then  felt  a  confirmed  and 
decided  taste.  Upon  one  occasion,  a  visiter  entered  the  shop,  and, 
looking  at  the  two  clerks,  one  of  whom  was  asleep  behind  the 
counter,  and  the  other  diligently  occupied  with  his  slate  and 
pencil,  smiled  and  said,  "  Hogarth's  apprentices  !  "  Another  visiter 
observed  that,  if  he  kept  on  ciphering  so,  he  had  not  any  doubt 
that,  in  time,  he  would  become  an  almanac  maker!  And  in  fact, 
in  the  year  1788,  he  computed  an  almanac  for  the  year  1790, 
which  is  still  preserved  in  his  library,  being  one  of  the  most 
curious,  if  not  most  valuable,  manuscripts  in  that  collection.  It 
is  also  stated  that  he  occasionally  tried  his  dexterity  at 
philosophical  experiments  ;  one  instance  mentioned  being  that, 
while  in  the  shop  of  Ropes  and  Hodges,  he  constructed  quite  a 
curious    barometer.       There  is   now  in    his    library,   also,   among 

20  MEMOIR. 

other    similar    articles,    a   very  neat    wooden    sun-dial,    which    he 
made    in    the   year    1792. 

These  pursuits  were,  however,  only  the  amusement  of  his 
leisure  hours.  He  never  allowed  them  to  interfere  with  the 
discharge  of  his  duty  towards  his  employers.  Upon  one  occasion, 
indeed,  a  customer  called  and  purchased  a  pair  of  hinges,  at  a 
time  when  the  young  clerk  was  deeply  engaged  in  solving  some 
problem  in  mathematics,  which  he  thought  he  would  finish 
before  charging  the  delivery  of  them  upon  the  books,  and  when 
the  problem  was  solved,  he  forgot  the  matter  altogether.  In  a 
few  days,  the  customer  called  again  to  pay  for  them,  when  Mr. 
Hodges  himself  was  in  the  shop.  The  books  were  examined, 
and  gave  no  account  of  this  purchase.  The  clerk,  upon  being 
applied  to,  at  once  recollected  the  circumstance,  and  the  reason  of 
his  own  forgetfulness.  From  that  day,  he  made  it  an  invariable 
rule  to  finish  every  matter  of  business  which  he  began,  before 
undertaking  any  thing  else.  Upon  his  recommendation,  given 
quite  late  in  life,  one  of  his  sons  adopted  as  a  motto  for  a  seal, 
"  End  what  you  begin."  He  has  himself  more  than  once  said, 
that  he  never   forgot  the   hinges. 

Having  once  heard,  in  1787,  from  his  brother  William,  a  vague 
account  of  a  method  of  working  out,  problems  by  letters,  instead 
of  figures,  he  succeeded  in  borrowing  the  book  which  contained 
it,  and  was  so  much  interested  and  excited  by  his  first  glance 
at  algebra,  that  he  could  not  get  the  least  sleep  during  the  whole 
of  the  next  night.  An  old  British  sailor,  residing  at  Salem  on  half 
pay,  and  who    ended    his    days    as   an    inmate  of  the   Greenwich 

MEMOIR.  21 

Hospital,  taught  him  the  elements  of  navigation ;  and  when  they 
last  met,  as  he  was  about  to  embark  for  Europe,  he  patted  him  on 
the  head,  saying,  "  My  boy,  you  have  a  taste  for  these  things  : 
keep  on  studying,  and  you  will  be  a  great  man  yet:"  —  an  approval 
which  greatly  stimulated  and  encouraged  him.  He  rose  each 
day  at  the  earliest  dawn,  and  devoted  his  morning  hours  to  study. 
He  has  often  been  heard  to  say,  that  the  time  which  he  thus 
gained  from  sleep,  gave  him,  substantially,  all  his  mathematics.  He 
passed  the  long  winter  evenings,  too,  by  the  kitchen  fireside  of  his 
employer,  Mr.  Hodges,  — which  his  diffidence,  as  well  as  the  security 
it  offered  him  from  interruption,  led  him  to  prefer  to  the  parlor,  — 
quietly  engaged  in  his  favorite  pursuit ;  and  occasionally,  it  is  said, 
also  rocking,  at  the  same  time,  the  infant's  cradle,  at  the  request 
of  the  attendant,  who  wished  to  be  doing  something  else. 

It  happened  that  Mr.  Hodges  and  another  gentleman  owned 
together  in  moieties  a  very  irregularly-shaped  field  in  Salem, 
and  wished  to  divide  it.  Accordingly,  the  young  apprentice 
undertook  to  make  the  proposed  survey  and  division,  and 
completed  the  task  with  the  most  minute  accuracy.  The 
co-tenant,  however,  refused  to  abide  by  this  survey,  since  he 
thought  that,  as  it  was  made  by  one  who  was  in  the  employment 
of  Mr.  Hodges,  it  was  probable  that  there  had  been  an  unfair  bias 
in  his  favor.  A  regular  surveyor  was  then  employed,  and  Dr. 
Bowditch,  who  was  very  indignant  at  the  suspicions  entertained 
in  regard  to  his  own  result,  said  that  he  could  not  help  feeling  a 
malicious  pleasure  when  he  found  that  the  gentleman  alluded  to 
received  for  his  half  part  several  square  feet  less  than  he  was 
entitled  to.      In   1794,  he  was    employed    by   the    town  to   assist 

VOL.   iv.  f 

22  MEMOIR. 

Captain  John  Gibaut  in  making  a  survey  of  Salem,  which  labor 
he  accordingly  performed ;  and  the  exact  area  of  the  town,  as 
ascertained   by  this    survey,  was  computed  by  him. 

Being  very  fond  of  books,  and  having  no  guide  in  the  selection 
of  them,  his  reading  in  early  life  was  of  the  most  miscellaneous 
character.  Thus  he  read  through  the  whole  of  Chambers's 
Encyclopaedia,  in  four  folio  volumes,  without  omitting  an  article  ; 
and,  as  his  memory,  except  as  to  persons  and  names,  was 
wonderfully  retentive,  he  in  this  manner  acquired  a  fund  of  the 
most  varied  information.  His  intimate  friends  have  often  been 
surprised  at  finding  him  quite  conversant  with  subjects  apparently 
the  most  foreign  from  his  favorite  studies  ;  and  one  of  the  most 
profound  scholars  among  them  observed,  that  he  could  hardly 
form  an  adequate  estimate  of  the  extent  of  his  general  attainments. 
He  was  an  ardent  admirer  of  Shakspeare,  whose  most  beautiful 
passages  were  treasured  up  in  his  memory  from  earliest  youth. 
His  familiarity  with  the  Old  and  New  Testament  was  very  great, 
surpassing  that  of  many  professed  theologians.  The  family  Bible, 
which  he  first  read,  is  still  preserved,  having  in  it  a  curious 
map  of  the  wanderings  of  the  Israelites,  and  various  engravings 
calculated  to  awaken  that  interest  in  the  young  reader,  which 
every  subsequent  perusal  in  manhood  and  old  age  has  a  tendency 
to  strengthen  and  confirm.  Through  the  kindness  of  his  friends, 
and  especially  of  Dr.  Prince  and  Dr.  Bentley,  both  Unitarian 
clergymen  of  Salem,  the  former  of  whom  was  distinguished  for  his 
fondness  for  natural  philosophy,  he  obtained  the  use  of  books  which 
would  otherwise  have  been  unattainable  by  him.  It  happened 
that,  in  his  youth,  the  extensive   scientific  library  of  the  late  Dr. 

MEMOIR.  23 

Richard  Kirwan  was  captured  in  the  British  Channel  by  a 
privateer  fitted  out  from  Beverly,  the  next  town  to  Salem. 
The  enlightened  and  liberal  owners  of  the  vessel  permitted  the 
library  thus  captured  to  be  sold  at  a  very  low  rate  to  an  association 
of  gentlemen  in  Salem,  and  it  became  the  basis  of  the  present 
Salem  Athenaeum.*  From  this  extremely  valuable  library,  which 
was  a  better  one  than  then  existed  in  any  part  of  the  United  States, 
except  at  Philadelphia,  he  obtained  leave  freely  to  take  out  books, 
and  to  consult  and  study  them  at  pleasure.  Among  its  treasures 
were  the  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  of  London.  All  the 
mathematical  papers  in  these  Transactions,  and  many  scientific 
works,  were  wholly  or  partially  transcribed  by  him,  and  are  still 
preserved  in  his  library,  contained  in  more  than  twenty  folio  and 
quarto  common-place  books  and  other  volumes.  And  this  immense 
labor  he  was  obliged  to  undergo  chiefly  from  his  inability  to 
purchase  the  books  in  question,  —  which  he  wished  to  have  by 
him  permanently,  for  the  purpose  of  convenient  reference,  —  and 
partly,  perhaps,  from  his  desire  to  impress  their  contents  more 
strongly  upon  his  memory  than  could  be  done  by  a  mere  perusal. 
The  title-page  of  one  of  these  volumes  states  that  it  contains, 
with  the  next  volume,  "  A  complete  Collection  of  all  the 
Mathematical  Papers  in  the  Philosophical  Transactions  ;  Extracts 
from    various    Encyclopaedias,    from    the    Memoirs    of    the    Paris 

*  It  is  an  interesting  fact,  that,  many  years  afterwards,  "  an  offer  of  remuneration  was 
made  to  Dr.  Kirwan,  who  respectfully  declined  it,  expressing  his  satisfaction  that  his  valuable 
library  had  found  so  useful  a  destination." — An  Eulogy  on  the  Life  and  Character  of 
Nathaniel  Bowditch,  LL.  D.,  F.  R.  S.,  delivered  at  the  Request  of  the  Corporation  of  the 
City  of  Salem,  May  24,  1838;  by  Daniel  Appleton  White;  p.  43. 

24  MEMOIR. 

Academy  ;  a  complete  Copy  of  Emerson's  Mechanics  ;  a  Copy  of 
Hamilton's  Conies ;  Extracts  from  Gravesande's  and  Martyn's 
Philosophical  Treatise,  from  Bernoulli,  &c.  &c."  He  always 
read  with  close  attention,  and  endeavored  to  ascertain  the  exact 
meaning  of  every  word  about  which  he  was  doubtful.  This  led 
him,  in  after  life,  to  collect  around  him  dictionaries,  which  he 
constantly  consulted.  He  had  more  than  one  hundred  in  his 

He  began  to  learn  Latin,  January  4,  1790,  without  an  instructor, 
that  he  might  read  Newton's  Principia,  which  he  had  before 
attempted  to  understand  by  means  only  of  his  knowledge  of 
mathematical  subjects  and  the  various  equations  and  diagrams 
which  it  contained.  He  now  read  a  copy  of  Euclid,  which  had 
been  given  him  by  his  brother-in-law,  Mr.  Martin,  and  which  was 
once  the  property  of  Dr.  Mather  Byles,  a  clergyman  of  Boston, 
distinguished  for  his  humor  and  eccentricity.  The  book  still 
retains  his  original  pencil  marks,  recording  the  meaning  of  the 
simplest  Latin  words  —  "  tamen,  nevertheless  ;  mrsus,  again  ;  " 
&c.  He  had  previously  read  Euclid  in  English,  and  the  letters 
"  Q.  E.  D.,"  which  had  remained  an  impenetrable  mystery  to  him 
on  his  previous  attempt  to  read  the  Principia,  were  now  explained 
by  the  "quod  erat  demonstrandum"  which  he  here  discovered; 
but  he  was  for  a  long  time  perplexed  by  the  words  "  mutatis 
mutandis"  and  unable  to  conjecture  what  particular  change  they 
indicated.  He  had  received  from  Dr.  Bentley  a  copy  of  the 
Principia,  which  had  formerly  been  presented  by  that  gentleman 
to  a  young  friend,  who  kindly  consented  to  relinquish  his  prior 
claims  ;  and  this  work  he  at  last  mastered,  as  he  had  done  Euclid 

MEMOIR.  25 

before.  The  Hon.  Nathan  Reed,  then  an  apothecary  in  Salem, 
afterwards  a  member  of  Congress,  being  himself  fond  of  scientific 
pursuits,  was  attracted  by  this  love  of  science  manifested  by  Dr. 
Bowditch,  and  formed  an  intimate  acquaintance  with  him.  In  his 
shop  was  an  assistant  who  was  a  schoolmate  and  friend  of  Dr. 
Bowditch,  and  here  their  Sunday  evenings  were  often  passed 
together.  Mr.  Reed  states  as  a  fact,  that  Dr.  Bowditch,  while 
in  Mr.  Ward's  employment,  actually  translated  Newton's  Principia 
into  English.  No  such  translation  is,  however,  now  to  be  found 
among  his  papers ;  though  translations  of  parts  of  it,  indeed,  are 
contained  in  the  manuscript  volumes  before  mentioned.  In  a 
similar  manner,  and  from  the  same  motive,  he  acquired  the 
elements  of  the  French  language ;  to  perfect  himself  in  which, 
he  took  lessons  during  sixteen  months,  from  a  foreigner  then  in 
Salem,  whom,  in  return,  he  instructed  in  English.  At  first,  he 
declined  learning  the  pronunciation,  as  a  matter  which  could  not  be 
of  any  use  to  him  ;  but  at  last,  the  foreigner  was  so  shocked  at 
hearing  him  read  the  words  parlez  vons,  &c,  as  if  these  had  been 
English,  that  he  almost  insisted  upon  instructing  him  in  the  true 
pronunciation,  telling  him  that  it  might  be  of  importance  in  the 
business  of  life.  And  in  fact,  he  had  scarcely  learned  it,  before 
his  first  voyage  was  decided  upon,  and  to  a  French  port,  where 
he  was   thus   enabled  to   act  as  a  successful  interpreter. 

Excepting  a  few  lessons  which  he  took  in  book-keeping  from 
Mr.  Michael  Walsh,  it  is  believed  that  he  received  no  other 
regular  instruction  after  leaving  school.  But  it  has  been  stated 
that  Drs.  Bentley  and  Prince  rarely  passed  his  employer's 
shop,  without  stopping   to  converse  with  him  ;  and   thus,  perhaps, 

VOL.   IV.  g 

26  MEMOIR. 

by  the  interest  he  had  awakened  in  their  minds,  he  had  secured 
to  himself  the  gratuitous  and  invaluable  assistance  of  the  two  ablest 
instructers  whom  the  town  then  contained.  The  world,  indeed, 
was  his  school,  and  Nature  herself  his  best  instructer.  She  offers 
her  lessons  to  all,  though  many  overlook  or  disregard  her  teachings. 
But  his  was  one  of  those  powerful  intellects  which  only  at  intervals 
appear  among  men  :  it  was  stimulated  and  aroused  to  action  by 
that  sternest  though  best  of  monitors,  necessity  ;  and  it  mastered 
every  thing  within  its  reach.  Dr.  Bowditch  never  considered  that 
the  obstacles  in  his  path  had  the  slightest  tendency  to  retard  his 
progress.  On  the  contrary,  he  felt  that  they  afforded  him  a  foot- 
hold by  which  that  progress  was  rendered  more  sure  and  steady. 
Much  as  he  valued  all  the  "  means  and  appliances  "  of  learning, 
- —  and  he  did  value  them  beyond  all  price,  —  he  thought  it  a  great 
disadvantage  to  any  one  to  be  born  and  educated  in  the  midst  of  ease 
and  luxury,  even  though  surrounded  with  every  facility  for  mental 
cultivation  ;  since,  to  such  a  one,  the  needful  stimulus  or  inducement 
to  use  the  means  within  his  reach  would  be  almost  surely  wanting. 
He  often  mentioned  with  approbation,  as  containing  much  truth, 
the  remark  of  a  distinguished  French  mathematician  to  a  young 
pupil,  whose  ready  and  intelligent  answers  had  awakened  his 
interest,  and  who,  in  reply  to  the  question  of  his  instructer,  had  told 
him  his  parentage  and  situation  in  life,  —  "Ah  !  I  am  sorry.  You 
are  too  rich.  You  must  give  up  mathematics."  One  remarkable 
exception,  indeed,  to  this  rule,  Dr.  Bowditch  readily  admitted  in 
the  instance  of  him  whose  genius  reflected  as  bright  a  lustre  on 
the  noble  house  of  Cavendish  as  had  been  received  from  it.* 

*  "  En  sorte  qu'il  n'y  a  nulle  temerite  a  presager  qu'il  fera  rejailler  sur  sa  maison  autant  de 
lustre  qu'il  en  a  recu  tl'ellc." —  Cuuicr's  Eulogy  on  Cavendish,  before  the  Institute  of  France. 

MEMOIR.  27 

In  the  manuscript  volumes  before  mentioned  are  often 
contained  the  precise  dates  at  which  he  was  studying  and 
recording  the  mathematical  papers  there  collected,  and  occasionally 
they  contain  mottoes  or  sentiments  upon  other  subjects.  Thus  the 
title-page  of  one  of  them,  under  the  date  of  December  13,  1794, 
has  the  well-known  quotation,  "  Nullius  addictus  jurare  in  verba 
magistri."  A  minute  analysis,  indeed,  of  these  volumes,  in  a 
more  extended  biography,  might  perhaps  enable  the  reader  to 
trace,  step  by  step,  the  mental  progress  of  Dr.  Bowditch.  It 
is  only  necessary,  however,  here  to  state,  that  he  who,  at  the  age 
of  twenty-one  years,  had  read  the  immortal  work  of  Newton,  was, 
even  then,  unsurpassed,  and  probably  unequalled,  in  mathematical 
attainments  by  any  one  in  the  commonwealth.  Those  habits  were 
then  formed  which  were  to  render  him  as  eminent  among  men  of 
business,  as,  by  his  talents  and  acquirements,  he  was  to  become 
eminent  among  men  of  science.  And  his  character,  also,  then 
exhibited  all  those  beautiful  and  harmonious  elements  which  it 
ever  afterwards  retained.  That  deep  religious  principle,  which 
sustained  and  cheered  him  in  the  last  hours  of  his  life,  had  guided 
his  boyhood,  and  was  now  the  familiar  and  inseparable  companion 
of  his  mature  years ;  and  already  were  displayed  those  various 
social  and  personal  virtues,  which  were  to  render  him  a  moral 
exemplar  to  the  community  in  which  he  lived. 

Dr.  Bowditch  began  life  with  the  same  pursuits  which  his 
ancestors  had  followed  for  so  many  generations.  Between  the 
years  1795  and  1804,  he  made  five  voyages,  —  performing  the  first 
in  the  capacity  of  clerk,  and  the  three  next  in  that  of  supercargo,  — 

28  MEMOIR. 

all  under  the  command  of  Captain  Henry  Prince,  of  Salem.  On 
his  fifth  and  last  voyage,  he  acted  as  both  master  and  supercargo. 
He  sailed  upon  the  first  of  these  voyages,  January  11,  1795,  in  the 
ship  Henry,  bound  to  the  Isle  of  Bourbon,  and  was  absent  exactly 
one  year.  His  three  next  voyages  were  in  the  ship  Astrea,  which 
sailed,  in  1796,  for  Lisbon,  Madeira,  and  Manilla,  and  arrived  at 
Salem  in  May,  1797  ;  and  again  in  August,  1798,  sailed  for  Cadiz, 
thence  to  the  Mediterranean,  loaded  at  Alicant,  and  arrived  at 
Salem  in  April,  1799  ;  and  in  July,  1799,  sailed  from  Boston  to 
Batavia  and  Manilla,  and  returned  in  September,  1800;  —  and  his 
fifth  voyage  was  in  the  Putnam,  which  sailed  from  Beverly, 
November  21,  1802,  bound  for  Sumatra,  and  arrived  at  Salem 
December  25,  1803. 

He  has  related  that,  upon  the  first  of  these  voyages,  he  carried 
out,  as  an  adventure,  a  small  box  of  shoes,  which  article  proved 
on  his  arrival  at  the  Isle  of  Bourbon  to  be  in  great  demand. 
He  sold  them  for  about  three  times  the  first  cost,  and  having 
made  an  advantageous  investment  of  the  proceeds,  he  returned 
home  quite  elated,  and  feeling  that  the  fickle  goddess  had  smiled 
upon  him  more  propitiously  than  she  ever  had  done  upon  any 
mortal   before. 

Of  his  second  voyage,  Captain  Prince  relates,  that  one  day, 
when  dining  at  the  table  of  the  American  consul  at  Madeira,  "  his 
supercargo  laid  down  his  knife  and  fork,  and,  after  squeezing  the 
tips  of  his  fingers  for  two  minutes,"  gave  to  the  lady  of  the  house 
an  answer  to  an  intricate  question  which  she  had  proposed  ;  to  the 

MEMOIR.  29 

great  astonishment  of  her  clerk,  who,  after  a  long  calculation, 
had  succeeded  in  solving  it,  and  "  who  exclaimed  that  he  did  not 
believe  there  was  another  man  on  the  island  who  could  have  done 
it  in  two  hours." 

During  his  third  voyage,  on  the  passage  from  Cadiz  to  Alicant, 
they  were  chased  by  a  French  privateer ;  but,  being  well  armed 
and  manned,  they  determined  on  resistance.  The  duty  assigned 
to  Dr.  Bowditch  was  that  of  handing  up  the  powder  upon  deck. 
And  in  the  midst  of  the  preparations,  the  captain  looked  into  the 
cabin,  where  he  was  no  less  surprised  than  amused  at  finding  his 
supercargo  quietly  seated  by  his  keg  of  powder,  and  busily 
occupied,  as  usual,  with  his  slate  and  pencil.  He  said  to  him, 
"  I  suppose  you  could  now  make  your  will,"  to  which  he  smilingly 
assented.  He  did  in  fact  give  to  his  eldest  son  his  instructions 
in  regard  to  his  last  will,  with  the  like  calmness  and  composure, 
when  there  was  not  only  an  apparent  danger,  but  an  absolute 
certainty,  of  the  near  approach  of  death. 

Upon  his  arrival  at  Manilla,  during  his  fourth  voyage,  the 
captain,  being  asked  how  he  contrived  to  find  his  way,  in 
the  face  of  a  north-east  monsoon,  by  mere  dead-reckoning, 
replied,  "  that  he  had  a  crew  of  twelve  men,  every  one  of  whom 
could  take  and  work  a  lunar  observation  as  well,  for  all  practical 
purposes,  as  Sir  Isaac  Newton  himself,  were  he  alive."  During 
this  conversation,  Dr.  Bowditch  sat  "  as  modest  as  a  maid,  saying 
not  a  word,  but  holding  his  slate  pencil  in  his  mouth ; "  while 
another    person     remarked,    that     "  there     was    more     knowledge 

vol.  iv.  h 

30  MEMOIR. 

of  navigation  on  board  that  ship  than  there  ever  was  in  all  the 
vessels  that  have  floated  in  Manilla  Bay."  * 

In  his  last  voyage,  Dr.  Bowditch  arrived  off  the  coast  in 
mid-winter,  and  in  the  height  of  a  violent  north-east  snow-storm. 
He  had  been  unable  to  get  an  observation  for  a  day  or  two,  and 
felt  very  anxious  and  uneasy  at  the  dangerous  situation  of  the 
vessel.  At  the  close  of  the  afternoon  of  December  25,  he 
came  on  deck,  and  took  the  whole  management  of  the  ship 
into  his  own  hands.  Feeling  very  confident  where  the  vessel 
was,  he  kept  his  eyes  directed  towards  the  light  on  Baker's  Island, 
at  the  entrance  of  Salem  harbor.  Fortunately,  in  the  interval 
between  two  gusts  of  wind,  the  fall  of  snow  became  less  dense 
than  before,  and  he  thus  obtained  a  glimpse  of  the  light  of  which 
he  was  in  search.  It  was  seen  by  but  one  other  person,  and 
in  the  next  instant  all  was  again  impenetrable  darkness. 
Confirmed,  however,  in  his  previous  convictions,  he  now  kept 
on  the  same  course,  entered  the  harbor,  and  finally  anchored  in 
safety,  t  He  immediately  went  on  shore,  and  the  owners  were 
very  much  alarmed  at  his  sudden  appearance  on  such  a 
tempestuous  night,  and  at  first  could  hardly  be  persuaded  that 
he  had  not  been  wrecked.     And  cordial  indeed  was  the  welcome 

*  An  interesting  incidental  notice  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  in  the  case  of  a  black  cook  who 
could  work  lunar  observations,  may  be  found  in  Zach's  Correspondance  Astronomique, 
Vol.  IV.  p.  62. 

f  Upon  this  occasion,  he  had  given  his  orders  with  the  same  decision  and  preciseness  as  if 
he  saw  all  the  objects  around,  and  thus  inspired  the  sailors  with  the  confidence  which  he  felt 
himself.  One  of  them,  who  was  twenty  years  older  than  his  captain,  exclaimed,  "  Our  old 
man  goes  ahead  as  if  it  was  noon-day ! " 

MEMOIR.  '  31 

which    he    received    from    one    who    had    been    listening    to    the 
warfare  of  the  elements  with  all  the  solicitude  of  a  sailor's  wife. 

In  his  transactions  with  custom-house  officers  upon  the 
continent  of  Europe,  he  found  that  they  almost  universally  required 
a  fee,  not  less  for  the  performance  of  duty  than  for  the  violation 
of  it;  and  several  of  his  most  humorous  anecdotes  related  to  his 
own  experience  in  this  matter.  Indeed,  all  his  subsequent 
observation  convinced  him  that  there  is  hardly  a  labor  or  duty 
in  life  that  is  not  rendered  more  light  and  easy  by  gratuitous 
compensation ;  and  therefore  it  was  always  his  rule,  not  only 
during  these  voyages,  but  through  life,  to  make  it  for  the  interest 
of  those  about  him  to  be  upon  the  alert  in  attending  to  his 
wishes,  or  complying  with  his  requests  ;  though  never  did  he 
attempt  by  this  means  to  persuade  any  one  to  what  he  considered, 
in  the  slightest  degree,   a  violation  of  duty,  or  breach  of  trust. 

During  these  voyages,  he  perfected  himself  in  the  French 
language,  and  acquired  a  knowledge  of  the  Italian,  Portuguese, 
and  Spanish,  especially  of  the  latter  language.  Thus  he  read 
through  the  whole  of  the  voluminous  Spanish  History  of  Mariana, 
during  one  of  these  voyages  ;  and  many  interesting  facts  there 
stated  respecting  Cardinal  Ximenes  and  the  Great  Captain,  &c, 
he  distinctly  remembered  in  his  recent  perusal  of  Prescott's 
Ferdinand  and  Isabella,  —  the  last  work  which  he  read  before 
his  death.  An  interpreter,  with  whom  he  was  transacting 
business,  and  whose  piety  consisted  in  the  external  observances 
of  a  good  Catholic,  cautioned  him  against  reading  so  many  books, 
lest    some    of    them    should    brins;    him    into    the    hands    of    the 

32  MEMOIR. 

Inquisition.  It  is  worthy  of  remark,  that  it  was  to  this  acquisition 
of  the  Spanish  language,  and  the  consequent  opportunity  afforded 
him  of  conferring  an  obligation  upon  an  active  merchant  in  Salem, 
by  gratuitously  translating  for  him  a  Spanish  protest,  that  Dr. 
Bowditch  always  attributed  his  appointment  to  the  situation 
which  he,  a  few  years  afterwards,  obtained  against  a  powerful 
competitor,  and  for  which  he  was  much  indebted  to  the  influence 
and  friendship  of  the  merchant  alluded  to.  In  view  of  this 
circumstance,  and  that  before  mentioned  respecting  his  knowledge 
of  French  pronunciation,  with  other  incidents  of  a  similar 
character,  he  used  to  say  that  nothing  which  he  ever  learned 
came  amiss.  It  may  here  be  mentioned  that,  as  late  in  life  as  the 
age  of  forty-five,  he  learned  the  German  language  thoroughly,* 
and  acquired,  at  about  the  same  time,  a  slight  knowledge  of 
Dutch.  A  manuscript  in  his  library  contains  probably  ten  thousand 
German  words  and  English  meanings,  which  he  had  transcribed 
that  he  might  better  remember  them.  He  delighted  to  trace 
analogies  between  different  languages,  and  especially  to  discover 
resemblances  of  foreign  words  to  those  of  his  mother  tongue,  of 
which  many  striking  examples  were  detected  and  mentioned  by 
him  —  the  Handschuh  of  the  German,  meaning  glove;  and  the 
verse    in    the    Dutch  New    Testament    in    which    the    stonine-    of 

*  In  a  letter  of  Dr.  Bowditch  to  Baron  Zach,  dated  November  22,  1822,  published  in 
Zach's  Correspondance  Astronomicjuc,  Vol.  X.  p.  224,  he  states  that  he  had,  three  years 
previously,  purchased  several  of  the  most  important  works  of  the  German  mathematicians, 
and  among  others  Zach's  Monatliche  Correspondenz,  in  twenty-eight  volumes,  —  and  adds, 
"  With  this  work  I  began  to  learn  German,  and  have  been  amply  rewarded  for  the  labor." 
His  own  experience  led  him  to  say,  that  this  language  could  be  acquired,  in  a  degree 
sufficient  for  reading  all  mathematical  works,  by  studying  two  hours  each  day  for  four  months. 

MEMOIR.  33 

Stephen  is  described,  and  where  it  is  added  that  the  apostles 
made  "  eenen  grooten  rowe  over  hem,"  &c.  The  serious  attempt 
to  prove  that  jour  was  derived  from  dies,  he  thought  not  so  absurd 
as  he  might  have  done,  had  not  a  Spanish  boy  who  once  shipped 
with  him,  having  the  Christian  name  of  Benito,  been  in  the  next 
voyage  entered  upon  the  books  by  the  good  American  cognomen 
of  Ben  or  Benjamin  Eaton.  He  was  often  amused  at  discovering 
in  the  dictionary  of  some  foreign  language,  a  definition  expressing 
more  clearly  than  elegantly  the  precise  signification  of  a  word.* 
He  also  acquired  some  knowledge  of  Greek,  but  how  early  in  life 
is  not  known.  He  always  began  to  learn  a  language  by  taking 
the  New  Testament  and  dictionary,  and  attempting  immediately 
to  translate.  Thus  he  left  in  his  library  the  New  Testament 
in  more  than  twenty-five  different  dialects  or  languages. 

But  the  long  intervals  of  leisure  which  a  sailor's  life  afforded, 
he  chiefly  devoted  to  his  favorite  study,  pursuing  with  unremitting 
zeal  those  researches  in  which  he  had  already  made  such  progress, 
notwithstanding  the  interruptions  and  embarrassments  of  his  earlier 
days.  Here,  with  only  the  sea  around  him,  and  the  sky  above 
him,  protected  alike  from  all  the  intruding  cares  and  engrossing 
pleasures  of  life,  he  especially  delighted  to  hold  converse  with  the 
master-spirits  who  had  attempted  to  explain  the  mysteries  of 
the  visible  universe,  and  the  laws  by  which  the  great  energies  of 
nature  are  guided  and  controlled.  M.  Lacroix  mentioned  to 
one  of  the  sons  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  that  from  him  he  had 
received    several    corrections  and  notices   of  errata    in  his    works, 

*  See  Ebers's  German  Dictionary,  passim. 
VOL.    IV.  i 

34  MEMOIR. 

which  our  navigator  had  discovered  during  these  long  India 
voyages.  And  in  the  ship  in  which  he  sailed  were  witnessed 
not  merely  the  labors  and  vigils  of  the  solitary  student,  but  the 
teachings  of  the  kind  and  generous  instructer,  anxious  and 
eager  to  impart  to  others  the  knowledge  which  he  had  himself 
acquired.  "  He  loved  study  himself,"  says  Captain  Prince,  "  and 
he  loved  to  see  others  study.  He  was  always  fond  of  teaching 
others.  He  would  do  any  thing  if  any  one  would  show  a 
disposition  to  learn.  Hence,"  he  adds,  "  all  was  harmony  on 
board  ;  all  had  a  zeal  for  study  ;  all  were  ambitious  to  learn." 
On  one  occasion,  two  sailors  were  zealously  disputing,  in  the 
hearing  of  the  captain  and  supercargo,  respecting  sines  and 
cosines.  The  result  of  his  teaching,  in  enabling  the  whole 
crew  of  twelve  men  to  work  a  lunar  observation,  has  been 
before  stated.  Every  one  of  those  twelve  sailors  subsequently 
attained,  at  least,  the  rank  of  first  or  second  officer  of  a  ship. 
It  was  a  circumstance  highly  in  favor  of  a  seaman,  that  he  had 
sailed  with  Dr.  Bowditch,  and  was  often  sufficient  to  secure  his 
promotion.  Connected  with  much  testimony  of  this  sort,  is  that 
of  the  uniform  affability  and  kindness  of  manner  displayed  by 
Dr.  Bowditch  in  his  intercourse  with  all  on  board,  which 
were  especially  calculated  to  increase  the  self-respect  of  the 
sailor,  and  inspire  him  with  a  due  sense  of  his  own  powers, 
and  of  the  importance  of  his  occupation.  In  a  letter  from 
an  officer  in  the  United  States  navy,  who  sailed  twice  in  the 
Astrea  with  Dr.  Bowditch,  at  first  as  a  cabin  boy,  and  who  died 
a  few  months  after  the  friend  of  whom  he  speaks,  the  writer 
states  some  of  the  above  particulars  respecting  Dr.  Bowditch, 
and  adds    that    "  his  kindness  and  attention  to  the  poor    sea-sick 

MEMOIR.  35 

cabin  boy  are  to  this  hour  uppermost  in  my  memory,  and  will 
be  so  when  his  logarithms  and  lunar  observations  are  remembered 
no  more."* 

It  is  unnecessary  to  state,  that  Dr.  Bowditch  discharged  his 
duty  toward  his  employers  with  the  utmost  fidelity  and  exactness. 
His  voyages  were  conducted  with  uniform  skill  and  success, 
and  to  their  entire  satisfaction.  It  is  said  by  Captain  Prince, 
that  Dr.  Bowditch,  though  he  had  such  a  thorough  knowledge 
of  navigation,  knew  but  little  of  what  is  called  seamanship  ; 
that  he  never  went  to  see  a  launch  in  his  life,  &c.  It 
is  without  doubt  true,  that  the  mere  detail  of  seamanship 
was  always  irksome  to  him.  He  has  often  told  his  children 
that,  upon  common  occasions,  he  left  the  management  of  the 
ship  to  his  first  officer  ;  but  upon  any  emergency,  he  was 
not  only  ready  and  desirous,  but,  as  is  believed,  perfectly 
competent,  to  perform  all  the  duties  which  could,  on  such 
occasions,   be    required  of  an   experienced   and  practical  seaman. 

The  following  is  the  account  of  his  habits  when  at  sea,  given 
by  one  who  was  his  companion  during  several  voyages.  "  His 
practice  was  to  rise  at  a  very  early  hour  in  the  morning,  and 
pursue  his  studies  till  breakfast,  immediately  after  which  he 
walked  rapidly  for  about  half  an  hour,  and  then  went  below  to 
his  studies  till  half  past  eleven  o'clock,  when  he  returned  and 
walked  till  the  hour  at  which  he  commenced  his  meridian 
observations.        Then     came     the     dinner,     after    which     he     was 

*  Charles  F.  Waldo,  Esq.,  died  August  31,   1838. 

36  MEMOIR. 

engaged  in  his  studies  till  five  o'clock ;  then  he  walked  till  tea 
time,  and  after  tea  was  at  his  studies  till  nine  in  the  evening. 
From  this  hour  till  half  past  ten,  he  appeared  to  have 
banished  all  thoughts  of  study,  and,  while  walking  at  his  usual 
quick  pace,  he  would  converse  in  the  most  lively  manner,  giving 
us  useful  information,  intermixed  with  amusing  anecdotes  and 
an  occasional  hearty  laugh.  He  thus  made  the  time  delightful 
to  the  officers  who  walked  with  him.  Whenever  the  heavenly 
bodies  were  in  distance  to  get  the  longitude,  night  or  day, 
he  was  sure  to  make  his  observations  once,  and  frequently 
twice,  in  every  twenty-four  hours,  always  preferring  to  make 
them  by  the  moon  and  stars,  as  less  fatiguing  to  his  eyes. 
He  was  often  seen  on  deck  at  other  times,  walking,  apparently 
in  deep  thought,  when  it  was  well  understood  by  all  on 
board  that  he  was  not  to  be  disturbed,  as  we  supposed  he 
was  solving  some  difficult  problem  ;  and  when  he  darted 
below,  the  conclusion  was  that  he  had  got  the  idea.  If  he 
were  in  the  fore  part  of  the  ship  when  the  idea  came  to 
him,  he  would  actually  run  to  the  cabin,  and  his  countenance 
would  give  the  expression  that  he  had  found  a  prize."* 
Another  correspondent  states  that  sometimes,  when  he  wished 
to  pursue  his  studies  without  disturbing  those  in  the  cabin 
by  introducing  a  candle  or  lamp,  he  has  seen  him  standing 
in  the  companion-way  with  his  slate  and  pencil,  working  out 
some  problem,  at  eleven  o'clock  at  night,  by  the  aid  onlv  of  the 
biaacle  lamp.t 

•  Judge  White's  Eulogy,  p.  27. 

t  Another    companion    of   his    voyages  says,  "  He   never    manifested   any  moral   failings 
whatever,  hut  was  always  remarkable  for  his  strict  principles  of  conduct,  and  for  the  utmost 

MEMOIR.  37 

Such  was  Dr.  Bowditch's  seafaring  life,  — not  wasted  in  ennui 
or  idle  reveries,  but  every  moment  of  it  devoted  to  the  improvement 
alike  of  his  own  mind  and  character,  and  those  of  every  individual 
in  the  little  world  around  him.  Already,  too,  as  might  have  been 
expected,  he  was  beginning  to  win  the  honors  of  science ;  and 
domestic  life,  from  which  the  sailor  is  almost  wholly  debarred, 
was  preparing  for  him  its  sweetest  home. 

From  our  venerable  University  at  Cambridge  he  received  the 
highest  encouragement  to  pursue  the  career  upon  which  he  had 
entered.  In  July,  1802,  when  his  ship,  the  Astrea,  was  wind- 
bound  in  Boston,  he  went  to  hear  the  performances  at  the  annual 
commencement  of  the  College  ;  and  among  the  honorary  degrees 
conferred,  he  thought  he  heard  his  own  name  announced  as 
Master  of  Arts  ;  but  it  was  not  until  congratulated  by  a 
townsman  and  friend,  that  he  became  satisfied  that  his  senses 
had  not  deceived  him.  He  always  spoke  of  this  as  one  of  the 
proudest  days  of  his  life ;  and  amid  all  the  subsequent  proofs 
which  he  received  of  the  respect  and  esteem  of  his  fellow-citizens, 
and  the  distinctions  conferred  upon  him  from  foreign  countries, 
he  recurred  to  this  with  the  greatest  pleasure.  It  is,  indeed, 
made     the    subject     of    express     mention     in     his     will.       It    was 

purity  of  mind  and  character ;  detesting  any  thing  of  an  opposite  nature,  even  in  word.  His 
feelings,  indeed,  were  quick,  and  sometimes,  though  rarely,  he  was  thought  to  give  a  too  quick 
utterance  to  them  ;  but  the  excitement  passed  off  in  a  moment."  Another  says,  "  I  have 
known  Dr.  B.  intimately  for  more  than  fifty  years,  and  I  know  no  faults.  This  may  seem 
strange ;  for  most  of  your  great  men,  when  you  look  at  them  closely,  have  something  to 
bring  them  down  ;  but  he  had  nothing.  I  suppose  all  Europe  would  not  have  tempted 
him  to  swerve  a  hair's  breadth  from  what  he  thought  right."  —  Judge  White's  Eulogy,  p.  56. 
VOL.   iv.  k 


gratefully  repaid  by  the  services  of  a  long  life.  For  the  last 
twelve  years,  he  was  one  of  the  select  body  of  seven  individuals 
intrusted  with  the  immediate  management  and  control  of  the 
College,  having  for  many  years  before  been  a  member  of  the 
more  numerous  body  of  Overseers,  who  have  the  general  and 
more  remote  supervision  of  its  affairs.  Upon  his  decease,  his 
associates  in  the  Corporation  of  Harvard  College  state,  "  that 
he  so  acquired  the  confidence  of  his  contemporaries,  as  to  be 
regarded  as  the  pillar  and  the  pride  of  every  society  of  which 
he  was  an  active  member,  the  effects  of  which  never  failed  to 
be  seen  and  acknowledged  by  its  prosperity  and  success  ;  "  and 
they  proceed  to  admit  the  benefit  which  that  institution  "  has 
derived  from  the  extraordinary  endowments  he  possessed,  and 
by  which,  in  the  exercise  of  his  characteristic  zeal,  intelligence, 
and  faithfulness,  he  ever  sustained  and  advanced  all  its 

On  the  28th  day  of  May,  1799,  he  was  chosen  a  member  of 
the  American  Academy  of  Arts  and  Sciences.  Some  of  the  most 
valuable  and  interesting  papers  in  its  Transactions  were  the 
subsequent  contributions  of  his  pen;  and  the  presidency  of 
this  society,  to  which  he  was  elected  in  May,  1829,  in  the 
place  of  John  Quincy  Adams,  late  President  of  the  United  States, 
is  one  of  the  highest  honors  which  Science  offers  to  her  votaries 
upon  this  side  of  the  Atlantic.  A  letter  received  from  the  officers 
of  the  Academy  bears  a  like  honorable  testimony  to  the  merits 
and  services  of  their  deceased  associate  and  President :  —  "It 
is  the  common  fate  of  mankind  to  die,  and  be  forgotten.  It  is 
the    privilege    of   the    just    and    good    to    be    associated    in    the 

MEMOIR.  39 

remembrance  with  tender  and  grateful  recollections.  It  is  the 
destiny  of  minds  gifted  above  the  common  lot,  and  acting  beyond 
the  common  sphere,  to  involve  in  general  regret  the  communities 
that  have  known  their  worth.  It  is  thus  that,  on  the  present 
occasion,  our  sincere  and  general  regret  is  necessarily  mingled 
with  the  sadness  of  domestic  affliction." 

On  March  25,  1798,  Dr.  Bowditch  married  Elizabeth, 
daughter  of  Francis  Boardman,  Esq.,  who  is  said  to  have  been 
a  lady  of  remarkable  intelligence,  and  worthy  of  his  choice. 
After  a  few  months  spent  in  her  society,  he  went  upon  his  third 
voyage,  and  upon  his  return  found  his  home  desolate.  She 
whom  he  first  selected  as  his  companion,  was  not  to  be  the 
mother  of  his  children.  His  wife  had  died,  October  18,  1798, 
aged  only  eighteen  years.  Dr.  Bowditch  felt  that  an  alliance 
so  abruptly  terminated,  did  not  justly  entitle  him  to  retain  to 
his  own  use  the  property  of  which  he  thereby  became  legally 
possessed  ;  and  accordingly,  he  surrendered  to  the  relatives  of 
his  late  wife,  every  thing  which  he  had  thus  acquired,  including 
even  certain  small  articles  of  plate,  &c,  which,  but  for  the  general 
character  of  the  motive  which  influenced  him,  he  would  have 
gladly  retained.  Upon  his  second  daughter  and  youngest  child, 
he,  many  years  afterwards,  bestowed  the  name  which  had  been 
borne  by  the  wife  of  his  youth. 

On  October  28,  1800,  he  married  his  cousin  Mary,  the  only 
daughter  of  his  uncle,  Jonathan  lngersoll,  Esq.  She  was  then 
scarcely  nineteen  years  of  age,  having  been  born  December 
4,    1781.        Her    father    had    been    an     active    ship-master,    and 

40  MEMOIR. 

was  then  living  upon  his  estate  in  Danvers,  from  which,  more 
than  twenty-five  years  ago,  he  removed  to  Windsor,  Vermont, 
where  he  still  cultivates  a  farm  upon  the  beautiful  banks  of  the 
Connecticut,  finding  in  the  cares  and  labors  of  husbandry,  at  the 
advanced  age  of  eighty-eight  years,  a  pleasure  greater  than  he 
ever  experienced  amid  the  more  stirring  scenes  of  his  youth. 
Long  may  his  honorable  and  peaceful  life  be  preserved !  This 
marriage,  which  lasted  more  than  thirty-three  years,  may  be 
regarded  as  the  most  happy  circumstance  of  Dr.  Bowditch's 
life.  With  personal  attractions  of  no  common  order,  domestic 
in  her  habits,  of  the  most  lively  and  cheerful  disposition,  with 
affections  which  age  never  chilled,  governed  ever  by  the  strictest 
religious  principle,  the  wife  and  mother  was  devotedly  attached 
to  her  husband  and  children,  sympathizing  in  the  pursuits  of  the 
former,  and  guiding  and  directing  those  of  the  latter,  making 
home  the  scene  of  the  purest  and  most  delightful  influences 
and  recollections,  and  associating  with  her  presence  in  life  and 
her  memory  in  death,  the  idea  of  a  being  whose  every  act  and 
thought  were  blameless.  The  stranger  was  attracted  by  her 
winning  smile  and  affable  manners.  She  made  her  house  the 
agreeable  resort  of  friends  and  visiters.  .  Many  sons  and 
daughters  of  sorrow  acknowledged  in  her  that  active  benevolence 
and  liberal  aid  which  discovered  and  supplied  their  wants,  or 
that  kindly  sympathy  which  soothed  where  it  could  not  relieve. 
But  there  was  one  who  was  her  heart's  idol,  whom  she  reverenced 
almost  as  a  being  of  a  higher  order  than  herself,  regarding  as 
worthless  every  thing  else,  in  comparison  with  his  approving 
smile.  He,  indeed,  had  reason  always  to  rejoice,  that  a 
beni»nant  Providence  had  made  her  the  sharer  and  the  guardian 

MEMOIR.  41 

of  his  home  and  his  happiness.  That  bosom,  where  his  head 
had  reposed  in  life,  with  undoubting  faith  and  trust,  was  the 
fittest  pillow  upon  which  it  could  be  placed  for  its  final  rest 
in  death  ! 

The  most  important  result  of  this  period  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  life, 
was  the  publication  of  The  New  American  Practical  Navigator, 
a  manual  in  which  were  imbodied  a  scientific  explanation  of 
the  principles  of  navigation,  and  also  the  practical  application 
of  these  principles  in  the  simplest  and  most  effective  manner.* 
Dr.  Bowditch  had  prepared  for  publication  two  editions  of  the 
treatise  of  John  Hamilton  Moore,  with  notes  and  corrections, 
and  in  preparing  a  third  revised  edition  of  that  work,  he 
corrected  so  very  many  errors,  that,  in  1802,  he  was  induced 
to  publish  it  under  his  own  name.  From  that  time  to  the 
present,  it  has  been  exclusively  used  by  every  ship-master  who 
has  sailed  from  this  country,  and  its  tables  and  rules  have  been 
adopted  in  the  works  used  in  England  and  elsewhere.  Into 
the  original  work,  and  the  eight  succeeding  editions,  many 
improvements,  of  great  practical  utility,  have  from  time  to  time 
been  introduced.  Thus  in  the  last  edition,  published  in  1837, 
"  the    body    of   tables    has    been    increased    from    thirty-three    to 

*  This  work  is  mentioned  by  Zach,  in  his  Correspondance  Astron.,  Vol.  VI.  p.  206, 
A.  D.  1822,  who  gives  the  entire  title-page  of  the  third  edition,  printed  at  Newburyport; 
and  in  Vol.  VII.  p.  167,  is  an  example  taken  from  it.  In  Vol.  X.  p.  234,  A.  D. 
1824,  we  find  the  title-page  of  the  fifth  edition,  printed  in  1821.  And  many  other 
notices  occur  in  the  same  journal,  of  astronomical  methods  given  by  Dr.  Bowditch  in  this 
work,  which,  as  they  were  also  the  subjects  of  particular  communications  made  by  him 
to  the  American  Academy,  will  be  noticed  hereafter. 
VOL.    IV.  I 

42  MEMOIR. 

fifty-six,  some  being  entirely  new,  and  others  essentially  improved 
or  corrected."  *  The  successive  additions  thus  made  by  the 
author,  have  prevented  the  competition  of  any  other  work. 
More  than  eight  thousand  errors  were  corrected  by  Dr.  Bowditch 
in  his  first  edition  of  it  under  his  own  name ;  and  when  it  is 
considered  that  one  of  these  was  no  less  than  the  very  criminal 
inattention  of  setting  down  the  year  1800  as  a  leap  year,  in  the 
tables  of  the  sun's  declination,!  thereby  making  a  mistake  in 
some  of  the  numbers  of  twenty-three  miles,  and  causing  the 
actual  destruction  of  several  ships,  and  the  imminent  danger  of 
others,  some  idea  may  be  formed  of  the  great  service  thus 
rendered  by  him  to  the  cause  of  nautical  science. J  The  amount 
of  labor  requisite  for  insuring  accuracy  in  the  tables,  by  actually 
going  through  all  the  calculations  necessary  to  a  complete 
examination  of  them,  was  immense  almost  beyond  conception. 
The  following  striking  contrast  is  presented  by  the  modest 
Preface  of  the  American  editor,  and  the  boasting  language  of 
the  original  compiler.  The  one  says,  that  "  the  author  had 
once  flattered  himself  that  the  tables  of  this  collection  which 
did  not  depend  on  observations,  would  be  absolutely  correct  ;  but 

*  Eulogy  on  Nathaniel  Bowditch,  LL.  D.,  President  of  the  American  Academy  of  Arts 
and  Sciences ;  including  an  Analysis  of  his  scientific  Publications ;  delivered  before  the 
Academy,  May  29,  1838  ;  by  John  Pickering,  Corresponding  Secretary  of  the  Academy ; 
p.  13. 

t  See  Preface  to  the  last  edition  of  the  work. 

X  For  many  interesting  details  respecting  this  work,  see  "  A  Discourse  on  the  Life  and 
Character  of  the  Hon.  Nathaniel  Bowditch,  LL.  D.,  F.  R.  S.,  delivered  in  the  Church  on 
Church  Green,  [Boston,]  March  25,  1838;  by  Alexander  Young;"  pp.  34  to  39; — and 
Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  p.   10,  &tc,  and  Notes,  pp.  84  to  87. 

MEMOIR.  43 

in  the  course  of  his  calculations,  he  has  accidentally  discovered 
several  errors  in  two  of  the  most  correct  works  of  the  kind 
extant,  viz.,  Taylor's  and  Hutton's  Logarithms,  notwithstanding 
the  great  care  taken  by  those  able  mathematicians  in  examining 
and  correcting  them.  He  therefore  does  not  absolutely  assert 
that  these  tables  are  entirely  correct,  but  feels  conscious  that 
no  pains  have  been  spared  to  make  them  so."  The  other 
says,  that  "  he  sells  no  sea-books,  charts,  or  instruments,  but 
such  as  may  be  depended  on  ;  consequently  he  excludes  all 
those  old,  inaccurate,  and  erroneous  publications,  the  depending 
upon  which  has  often  proved  fatal  to  shipping  and  seamen"  * 
The  following  is  the  summary  elsewhere  given  of  this  work : 
It  "  has  been  pronounced  by  competent  judges  to  be,  in  point 
of  practical  utility,  second  to  no  work  of  man  ever  published. 
This  apparently  extravagant  estimate  of  its  importance,  appears 
but  just,  when  we  consider  the  countless  millions  of  treasures 
and  of  human  lives  which  it  has  conducted,  and  will  conduct, 
in  safety  through  the  perils  of  the  ocean.  But  it  is  not  only 
the  best  guide  of  the  mariner  in  traversing  the  ocean ;  it  is  also 
his  best  instructer  and  companion  every  where,  containing  within 
itself  a  complete  scientific  library,  for  his  study  and  improvement 
in  his  profession.  Such  a  work  was  as  worthy  of  the  author's 
mind,  as  it  is  illustrative  of  his  character;  —  unostentatious,  yet 
profoundly  scientific  and  thoroughly  practical,  with  an  effective 
power  and  influence  of  incalculable  value."  f  So,  also,  the 
London  Athenaeum  says  of  this  work,  "It  goes,  both  in  American 
and  British  craft,  over  every  sea  of  the  globe,  and  is  probably 
the  best  work  of  the  sort  ever  published." 

#  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  p.   11.  t  Judge  White's  Eulogy,  p.  29. 

44  MEMOIR. 

Dr.  Bowditch,  however,  did  not  himself  consider  this  work 
as  one  which  would  much  advance  his  scientific  reputation.  It 
was,  in  his  view,  only  a  "  practical  manual."  *  But  it  was  the 
work  hy  which,  almost  exclusively,  he  was,  for  a  long  time,  known 
in  this  country,  and  it  laid  the  basis  of  a  wide-spread  popularity, 
such  as  few,  if  any,  works  upon  scientific  subjects  have  ever 
gained  for  their  authors.  Several  years  ago,  he  was  much 
amused  by  the  following  incident.  Two  young  men  came  into 
the  shop  of  his  bookseller  to  purchase  a  copy  of  the  Navigator. 
Upon  being  shown  one  bearing  on  its  title-page  the  number  of 
the  edition,  and  purporting  to  have  been  revised  and  corrected 
by  the  author,  one  said  to  the  other,  "  That  is  all  a  mere  cheat ; 
the  old  fellow  must  have  been  dead  years  ago  ! "  They  were 
astonished,  and  perhaps  a  little  embarrassed,  at  being  introduced 
to  an  active,  sprightly  gentleman,  in  full  health  and  good  spirits,  as 
the  author  of  this  work,  which  they  had  known  from  their  earliest 
entrance  upon  a  sailor's  life.  It  was  in  honor,  especially,  of  the 
memory  of  him  who  had   written  the    Practical    Navigator,  that, 

*  Dr.  Bowditch,  in  his  letter  to  Baron  Zach,  Corr.  Ast.  Vol.  X.  p.  225,  says,  "  You 
will  see  that  I  have  studiously  avoided  all  scientific  parade,  and  have  published  the  work 
according  to  the  method  of  instruction  used  in  our  country,  where  we  prefer,  in  these 
matters,  practice  to  theory."  Thus,  owing  to  the  errors  incident  to  all  nautical  observations, 
he  deemed  it  useless  to  aim,  in  the  nautical  tables,  at  the  most  minute  degree  of  exactness, 
but  only  at  that  measure  of  it  which  was  requisite  for  practical  purposes;  so  that  these 
tables  might  be  used  with  the  greatest  possible  promptness,  and  might,  at  the  same  time,  lead 
to  the  greatest  accuracy  of  result  which  was  in  fact  really  attainable.  And  he,  in  this 
letter,  states  that  he  is  delighted  to  find  that  Zach,  in  a  previous  publication,  concurs  in 
this  opinion.  Upon  this  the  editor  remarks,  p.  244,  "  mais  c'est  a  nous  de  nous  felioiter  de 
nous  trouver  d'accord  avec  un  navigateur  d'une  si  grande  experience  ;  la  notre  n'est  qu'une 

MEMOIR.  45 

when  the  news  of  his  death  was  received  at  Cronstadt,  all  the 
American  shipping,  and  many  of  the  English  and  Russian  vessels, 
hoisted  their  flags  at  half-mast  in  that  naval  depot  of  the  Czars, 
—  a  tribute  of  respect  which  had  been  previously  paid  in  the 
ports  of  Baltimore,  Boston,  and  Salem.  From  the  same  motive, 
the  badge  of  mourning  was  adopted  by  the  members  of  the  Naval 
School  of  the  United  States,  as  for  the  loss  of  a  valued  friend 
and  instructer. 

Immediately  upon  the  close  of  his  seafaring  life,  Dr.  Bowditch 
was  elected  President  of  the  Essex  Fire  and  Marine  Company, 
which  situation  he  held  till  his  removal  to  Boston,  in  1823. 
Here,  also,  he  displayed  his  usual  good  judgment  and  discretion, 
and  his  usual  success  attended  him.  It  was,  indeed,  an  office 
for  which  he  was  eminently  qualified  by  his  whole  previous  life. 
After  paying  to  the  stockholders  an  average  annual  dividend 
of  ten  or  twelve  per  cent,  for  the  whole  twenty  years  of  his 
presidency,  he  left  the  institution  with  a  large  surplus  of  profits 
earned.  In  this  situation,  where  he  was  necessarily  brought 
more  in  contact  with  men  of  business  than  ever  before,  his  easy 
and  affable  manners  soon  made  him  generally  known  ;  and  the 
intrinsic  excellences  of  his  character  made  him  no  less  generally 
beloved  and  respected. 

During  the  years  1805,  1806,  and  1807,  he  employed  himself 
in  making  a  survey  of  the  harbors  of  Salem,  Marblehead,  Beverly, 
and  Manchester  ;  and  the  result  of  his  labors  was  a  chart  of 
remarkable  beauty  and  exactness,  upon  which  all  the  old  and 
familiar  landmarks  of  the  pilots,  though  not  known  by  him  to  be 
vol.  iv.  m 

46  MEMOIR. 

such,    were    so    accurately    placed    in    their    true    distances    and 
bearings,  as  to  excite  among  them  the  greatest  surprise. 

His  principal  occasional  labors,  during  his  residence  in  Salem, 
consisted  of  twenty-three  contributions  to  several  volumes  of  the 
Transactions  of  the  American  Academy  of  Arts  and  Sciences,  of 
which  the  following  is  an  accurate  list :  — 

VOLUME      SECOND.        PART     SECOND. 

Published   in   1800. 

1.  New  Method  of  working  a  Lunar  Observation. 

The  object  of  this  method  was  to  establish  a  uniform  rule  for 
the  application  of  corrections,  so  that  there  should  be  no  variation 
of  cases  resulting  from  the  distance  and  altitude  of  the  observed 
bodies.  Dr.  Bowditch  says  of  this  method,  in  a  note,  that  "  it  was 
written  several  years  ago,  and  before  the  publication  of  the 
Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  for  1797,  in  which  is  inserted  a 
method  somewhat  similar,  invented  by  Mr.  Mendoza  y  Rios.  An 
appendix  to  the  New  Practical  Navigator  has  lately  been  published, 
in  which  the  corrections  are  all  additive,  and  the  work,  is  shorter."  It 
is  particularly  noticed  and  commended  in  the  Connoissance  des  Terns, 
(1808,)  then  published  under  the  direction  of  M.  Delambre.* 

*  Zach  (Corr.  Astron.,  Vol.  VI.  p.  553,  A.  D.  1322)  says,  "  M.  Bowditch  dans  son 
Nciv  american  practical  navigator  a  aussi  donne  pour  la  reduction  des  distances  lunaires  une 
nouvelle  meihode  abregee,  avec  des  tables,  qui  merite  d'etre  plus  connue  ;  aucun  auteur 
europeen  n'en  a  encore  parle  ;  il  vient  de  la  perfectionner  dans  sa  quatrieme  edition  stereotype 
publico  a  New  York  en  aout  1817.  Nous  la  recornmandons  a  l'attention  des  professeurs  et 
auteurs  des  traites  de  navigation."  In  Vol.  X.  p.  321,  A.  D.  1S24,  he  says,  "La  methode 
de  M.  Bowditch  a  l'avantage  sur  toutcs  les  autres  methodes  d'approximation,  que  routes  les 
corrections  sont  toujours  additives,  et  qu'on  n'a  jamais  besoin  de   faire  attention   a  des  cas 

MEMOIR.  47 

VOLUME     THIRD.         PART     FIRST. 

Published   in   1809. 

2.  Observations  on  the  Comet  of  1807.       [pp.  1—18.] 

3.  Observations  on  the  total  Eclipse  of  the  Sun,  June  16,  1806, 

made  at  Salem.       [pp-  18—23.] 

In  a  note  to  this  communication,  Dr.  Bowditch  makes,  as  is 
believed,  the  first  public  mention  of  an  error  in  Laplace's  Mecanique 
Celeste,  in  the  estimate  of  the  oblateness  of  the  earth,  as  calculated 
from  the  observed  length  of  pendulums;  showing  that  Laplace's 
result  ought  to  have  been,  upon  his  own  principles,  ^  instead  of  -^. 

4.  Addition  to  the  Memoir  on  the  Solar  Eclipse  of  June  16,  1806. 

[pp.  23-33.] 

5.  Application  of  Napier's  Rules  for  solving  the  Cases  of  Right- 

angled  Spheric  Trigonometry  to  several  Cases  of  Oblique- 
angled  Spheric  Trigonometry.       [pp-  33—38.] 

This  communication  so  alters  Napier's  rules,  as  to  make  them 
include  most  of  the  cases  of  oblique-angled  spheric  trigonometry,  and 
is  marked  by  the  same  neatness,  elegance,  and  simplicity,  which 
characterized  his  first  communication.  These  rules  are  now  familiarly 
known  in  the  text-books  of  Harvard  College  as  «  Bowditch's  Rules.'' 


Published  in   1815. 

6.    An     Estimate    of    the     Height,     Direction,     Velocity,     and 

particuliers  ;    les  regies  sont  generates;"    and  proceeds  to  give  a  detailed  account  of  it.- 
See  also  note  to  article  15. 

48  MEMOIR. 

Magnitude  of  the    Meteor   that   exploded    over    Weston, 
in  Connecticut,  December  14,   1807.        [pp.  213— 237.] 

This  communication  is  of  a  very  interesting  character,  and  it  rests 
upon  numerous  observations  collected  with  great  labor  and  assiduity. 
Dr.  Bowditch  considers  the  meteor  in  question  to  have  had  a  course 
about  eighteen  miles  above  the  earth,  a  velocity  of  more  than  three 
miles  a  second,  and  a  probable  cubic  bulk  of  six  millions  of  tons  — 
which  others  have  estimated  to  be  the  contents  of  the  pyramid  of 

7.  On  the  Eclipse  of  the  Sun  of  September  17,   1811,  with  the 

Longitudes  of  several  Places  in  this  Country,  deduced 
from  all  the  Observations  of  the  Eclipses  of  the  Sun, 
and  Transits  of  Mercury  and  Venus,  that  have  been 
published  in  the  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Societies  of 
Paris  and  London,  the  Philosophical  Society  held  at 
Philadelphia,  and  the  American  Academy  of  Arts  and 
Sciences.^       [pp-  255—305.] 

8.  Elements  of  the  Orbit  of  the  Comet  of  1811.       [pp.  313—326.] 

In  this,  as  in  his  second  communication,  he  arrived  at  his  results 
after  almost  incredible  labor,  rendered  necessary  by  the  want  of  the 

*  The  Zeitschrift  fur  Astronomie,  Vol.  I.  p.  37,  A.  D.  1816,  gives  the  results  arrived 
at  in  this  communication,  and  calls  it  "einer  interressanten  Arbeit." 

t  The  Zeitschrift  fir  Astronomie,  Vol.  I.  p.  90,  A.  D.  1816,  mentions  the  observations 
of  the  eclipses  of  the  sun,  June  16,  1806,  and  September  17,  1811,  as  contained  in  these 
volumes,  fee,  and  states  that  "Bowditch  hat  den  grossern  Theil  davon  zu  Langen- 
bestimmungen  benutzt  und  zugleich  dabey,  fiir  eine  Menge  amerikanischer  Orte,  Hi'ilfsgiossen 
lur  leichtern  Berechnung  des  Nonagesimus  gegeben;"  and  Zach,  in  his  Corr.  Astron. 
Vol.  X.  p.  494,  A.  D.  1824,  has  a  table  of  the  longitudes  and  latitudes  of  places 
determined  by  astronomical  observations  calculated  by  Dr.  Bowditch. 

MEMOIR.  49 

improved  methods  of  the  present  day.*  The  original  volume, 
containing  his  calculations  in  the  case  of  this  latter  comet,  now 
preserved  in  his  library,  contains  one  hundred  and  forty-four  pages 
of  close  figures,  probably  exceeding  one  million  in  number,  though 
the  result  of  this  vast  labor  forms  but  a  communication  of  twelve 

9.  An   Estimate  of  the  Height    of   the    White  Hills  in   New 
Hampshire.       [pp.  326—328.] 

10.  On  the   Variation  of  the  Magnetic  Needle.        [pp.  337 — 344.] 

This  communication,  in  like  manner,  which  is  of  quite  an 
interesting  character,  and  of  considerable  practical  importance,  was 
the  result  of  five  thousand  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  observations, 
during  a  period  of  four  years. 

11.  On  the  Motion  of  a  Pendulum  suspended  from  two  Points. 

[pp.  413—437.] 

This  communication  is  also  one  of  interest  and  value ;  and  the 
little  wooden  stand,  from  which  a  leaden  ball  was  suspended,  still 
exists,  to  remind  us  of  the  zeal  and  assiduity  with  which  Dr.  Bowditch 
watched  the  various  curves  and  lines  which  the  ball  described.! 

*  See  Dr.  Bowditch's  letter  (Zach,  Corr.  Astron.  Vol.  X.  p.  228)  before  referred  to, 
where  this  fact  is  stated.  The  editor,  in  p.  248,  gives  the  elements  of  the  orbits  of  the  comets 
calculated  by  Dr.  Bowditch  wholly  from  American  observations. 

t  Mr.  Encke,  in  speaking  to  a  friend  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  at  Berlin,  in  1836,  said  that  he 
had  known  him  from  the  time  when  this  paper  appeared ;  and  that  he  had  never  seen  an 
American  since,  without  asking  him  what  he  could  tell  him  about  its  author;  —  and  the 
Zeitschrift  fur  Astronomie,  Vol.  I.  p.  44,  gives  an  account  of  this  communication  "  von  dem 
amerikanischen  Astronomen  Bowditch." 

t  This  subject  is  mentioned  in  his  letter  to  Baron  Zach,  before  alluded  to,  ( Corr.  Astron. 
Vol.  X.  p.  227.)  The  editor,  in  his  note,  p.  246,  says  the  remarkable  variety  of  the 
VOL.    IV.  n 

50  MEMOIR. 

12.  A  Demonstration  of  the  Rule  for  finding   the  Place  of  a 

Meteor,  in  the  second  Problem,  page  218  of  this  Volume. 

[pp.  437—439.] 

VOLUME     FOURTH.         PART     FIRST. 

Published  in    1818. 

13.  On  a  Mistake  which  exists  in  the  Solar  Tables  of  Mayer, 

Lalande,  and  Zach*       [pp.  %  3.] 

14.  On    the    Calculation    of  the  Oblateness   of  the    Earth,    by 

Means    of   the    observed    Lengths   of   a   Pendulum   in 
different   Latitudes,  according   to  the  Method  given   by 

motions  of  a  pendulum  thus  suspended,  and  the  very  curious  experiments  of  Professor  Dean, 
who  explains,  in  this  mode,  the  apparent  motion  of  the  earth  as  seen  from  the  moon,  engaged 
Dr.  Bowditch  in  the  examination  of  the  theory  of  these  motions.  The  result  has  been,  he 
adds,  "  une  recherche  tres  interessante."  "  Comme  ce  memoire  merite  d'etre  mieux  connu, 
et  qu'il  ne  Test  pas  generalement,  vu  la  difficulte  de  se  procurer  des  livres  americains,  nous 
en  donnerons  la  traduction  dans  un  de  nos  cahiers." 

*  Dr.  Bowditch  states,  that  "  The  attraction  of  Jupiter  produces  an  equation  in  the 
expression  of  the  Sun's  distance  from  the  Earth,  and  a  Table  is  given  for  its  computation, 
by  Mayer,  in  1770,"  fee. ;  "  and  ever  since  this  Table  was  first  published,  which  is  about  fifty 
years,  an  error  of  six  signs  has  always  existed  in  the  argument  by  which  the  correction  is 
found  ;  so  that,  when  the  equation  is  really  subtractive,  it  will  frequently  be  found  by  the 
Table  to  be  additive,  and  the  contrary."  —  "In  De  Lambre's  Solar  Tables,  published  in  1806, 
the  form  of  the  table  is  wholly  altered,  the  method  of  entry  by  a  double  argument  being  used ; 
and  by  thus  taking  a  different  path,  the  error  is  avoided,  without  noticing  that  it  really  does 
exist  in  the  other  works." 

Baron  Zach,  in  his  Monatliche  Correspondent,  Vol.  VIII.  p.  449,  A.  D.  1803,  says 
that  Bowditch,  an  American  astronomer,  has  called  his  attention  to  this  mistake ;  and,  after 
admitting  its  importance,  frankly  adds,  "  Allen  Astronomen,  welche  sich  mit  Verfertigung 
der  Sonnen-Tafeln  beschaftigt  haben,  einen  La  Caillc,  Tob.  Mayer,  La  Lande,  De 
Lamhre  und  niir  ist  dieser  Fehler  entgangen." 

MEMOIR.  51 

Laplace,  in  the  Second  Volume  of  his  "3Iecanique 
Celeste;"  icith  Remarks  on  other  Parts  of  the  same 
Work  relating  to  the  Figure  of  the  Earth.        [pp.  3—24.] 

The  object  of  this  communication  is  to  correct  certain  errors  in 
the  article  "  Earth  "  in  Rees's  Cyclopeedia,  to  the  end  that  currency 
should  not  be  given  to  inaccurate  ideas  on  the  subject,  by  that  popular 

15.  Method  of  correcting   the  apparent  Distance  of  the  Moon 

from  the  Sun,  or  a  Star,  for  the  Effects  of  Parallax 
and  Refraction.       [pp.  24—31.] 

This  is  but  the  rule  given  in  the  Practical  Navigator,  making  all 
the  corrections  in  question  additive.  It  is  another  instance  of  the 
simplicity  at  which  he  always  aimed  in  his  rules  and  formulas.* 

16.  On   the    Method  of  computing   the   Dip    of  the    Magnetic 

Needle  in  different  Latitudes,  according  to  the   Theory 
of  Mr.  Biot.       [pp.  31-36.] 

17.  Remarks  on  the  Methods  of  correcting  the  Elements  of  the 

Orbit   of  a    Comet,    in    Neicton's    " Principia"    and    in 
Laplace's  "Mecanique  Celeste."       [pp.  36—48.] 

This  communication  proves  that  two  equations  in  the  Principia, 
the  accuracy  of  which  several  commentators  upon  that  work  had 

*  In  Zach's  Monatl.  Corres.,  Vol.  XVII.  p.  411,  A.  D.  1803,  this  method  is  mentioned 
as  being  in  the  Appendix  to  the  New  American  Practical  Navigator,  printed  at  Newburyport, 
1804  ;  and  the  editor  says,  "  Der  Verfasser  ist  ein  Americaner,  Bowditch,  und  Delambre  hat 
es  der  Miihe  werth  gehalten,  eine  umst'andliche  Darstellung  dieses  Verfahrens  zu  geben.' 
Then  follows  a  somewhat  minute  account  of  the  method.  —  See  note  to  article  1. 

52  MEMOIR. 

attempted  to  prove,  and  as  to  which  no  doubts  had  jet  been  expressed 
or  insinuated,  always  made  the  corrections  in  question  "  double  of 
what  they  ought  to  be,"  and  restricts  the  method  of  Laplace  as 
appropriate  only  where  the  number  of  observations  is  small. 

18.  Remarks   on   the   usual  Demonstration  of  the    Permanency 

of  the  Solar  System,  with  Respect  to  the  Eccentricities 
and  Inclinations  of  the  Orbits  of  the  Planets,     [pp.  48—51.] 

19.  Remarks    on    Dr.    Steicartfs   Formula  for    computing    the 

Motion  of  the  Mooris  Apsides,  as  given  in  the  Supplement 
to  the  Encyclopaedia  Britannica.       [pp.  51 — 61.] 

This  is  a  very  curious  and  interesting  communication.  A  method 
which,  notwithstanding  doubts  had  been  expressed  respecting  it, 
had  been  sanctioned  as  accurate  by  Dr.  Hutton,  by  Lalande,  and 
Playfair,  —  the  latter  of  whom  even  considered  its  accuracy  to  have 
been  demonstrated,  —  is  in  this  memoir  proved  to  have  been  true  only 
in  the  particular  case  supposed ;  and  it  is  shown  that,  as  a  general 
method,  it  wholly  fails. 


Published  in  1820. 

20.  On  the  Meteor  which  passed  over  Wilmington,  in  the  State 

of  Delaware,  November  21,  1819.       [PP.  3— 14.] 

21.  Occultalion   of  Spica    by    the    Moon,    observed    at    Salem. 

[P.  14.] 

22.  On   a   Mistake   which    exists   in    the    Calculation   of   Mr. 

Poisson  relative  to  the  Distribution  of  the  Electrical 
Matter  upon  the  Surfaces  of  two  Globes,  in  Vol.  XII. 

MEMOIR.  53 

of  the  "Memoires  de  la  classe  des  sciences  mathematiques 
et physiques  de  VInstitut  Imperial  de  France"   [pp.  15—17.] 

23.  Elements  of  the  Comet  of  1819.*       [PP.  17—19.] 

Besides  the  above  contributions  to  the  Memoirs  of  the  American 
Academy,  Dr.  Bowditch  was  the  writer  of  several  other  articles, 
among  which  may  be  mentioned  the  following  :  — 

1.  Notice  of  the  Comet  of  1807.      Published  in  the  Monthly  An- 

thology for  December,  1807,  Vol.  IV.       [pp.  653,  654.] 

2.  Review  of  a  "Report   of   the    Committee    (of  Congress,)  to 

whom  was  referred,  on  the  25th  of  January,  1810,  the 
Memorial  of  William  Lambert,  accompanied  with 
sundry  Papers  relating  to  the  Establishment  of  a  First 
Meridian  for  the  United  States,  at  the  permanent  Seat 
of  their  Government."  Published  in  the  Monthly  An- 
thology for  October,  1810,  Vol.  IX.       [pp.  245-266.] 

This  article  occupies  twenty-one  pages,  and  proves  very 
conclusively  the  great  advantages  of  continuing  to  estimate  the 
longitude  from  Greenwich,  which  Mr.  Lambert  considered  "a  sort 
of  degrading  and  unnecessary  dependence  on  a  foreign  nation,"  and 
an  "encumbrance  unworthy  of  the  freedom  and  sovereignty  of  the 
American  people."  This  Memorial  the  reviewer  shows  to  be  "  a 
compilation,  with  needless  repetitions  and  palpable  mistakes, 
evincing    a    great   want   of    knowledge    in    the    principles   of    the 

*  For  a  statement  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  communications  to  the  Memoirs  of  the  Academy, 
and   an  abstract    of  their   contents,  from  which    several    of  our   remarks   in    the   text   are 
condensed,  see  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  pp.  17 — 31. 
VOL.    IV.  0 

54  MEMOIR. 

calculations ; "  and  that,  "  both  as  respects  its  object  and  execution, 
it  was  wholly  undeserving  the  patronage  of  the  National  Legislature." 

3.  Defence    of    the     Review     of    Mr.    Lambert's     Memorial. 

Published   in    the    Monthly  Anthology  for  January,  1811, 

Vol.  X.  [pp.  40—49.] 

Mr.  Lambert  having,  in  an  angry  manner,  charged  his  reviewer 
with  "  twistical  cunning,"  "  ingenious  quibbling,"  "  zeal  for  the  honor 
of  the  British  nation,  and  the  convenience  of  British  mariners," 
and  challenged  him  "  to  examine  his  computation  of  the  longitude 
of  the  Capitol  at  Washington  from  Greenwich,  and  to  point  out  a 
mistake  that  can  be  made  palpable,'''1  —  Dr.  Bowditch,  in  this  reply, 
considers  these  charges  of  Mr.  Lambert  as  beneath  his  notice, 
but  accepts  his  challenge,  and  proves  that  there  is  an  error  in  every 
one  of  the  six  examples  he  has  given. 

These  two  papers  were  fatal  to  the  proposed  project;  and, 
fortunately  for  the  interests  of  science,  Greenwich  continues  to  be 
the  first  meridian  of  all  who  speak  the  English  language. 

4.  Revieiv   of  "A    Treatise    on  the  most   easy   and   convenient 

Method  of  computing  the  Path  of  a  Comet,  from  several 
Observations ;  by  William  Olbers,  31.  D. ;  Weimar, 
1797;"  —  mul  of  "Theoria  Motus  Corporum  Coelestium 
in  Sectionibus  Conicis  Solem  ambientium ;  "  by  Charles 
Frederick  Gauss;  Hamburg,  1809.  Published  in  the 
North  American  Review  for  April,  1820,  Vol.  X.* 
[pp.  260—272.] 

*  A  copy   of   this    article  Dr.  Bowditch  sent  to  Baron   Zach,   with   the   letter  before 
referred  to,  marking  a  part  of  it  as  written  by  Mr.  Everett,  the  editor.      Zach  publishes 

MEMOIR.  55 

This  article  gives  an  account  of  several  German  astronomers 
and  their  most  noted  periodical  publications.  Thus  it  contains  a 
notice  of  Dr.  Olbers  —  "  the  Columbus  of  the  planetary  world  "  — 
and  of  Gauss,  the  authors  of  the  two  works  reviewed  ;  an  account 
of  Bode's  Astronomisches  Jahrbuch,  Zach's  Monatliche  Correspondenz, 
and  the  Zeitschrift  fur  Astronomic  It  states  the  fact  that,  "  out  of 
thirteen  primary  planets  and  satellites,  discovered  since  the  year 
1781,  we  are  indebted  to  persons  born  in  Germany  for  twelve;  and 
that,  in  the  determination  of  the  orbits  of  these  new  bodies,  they 
have  done   more  than  all  the  other  astronomers  in  the  world." 

5.  Review  of  "A  remarkable  Astronomical  Discovery,  and 
Observations  of  the  Comet  of  July,  1819;  by  Dr.  Olbers 
of  Bremen  ;  published  in  Bode's  Astronomisches  Jahrbuch 
for  1822;"  [and  of  two  other  articles  in  the  same  work, 
for  the  years  1822  and  1823,  on  the  same  subject,  by 
Professor  Encke  of  the  Ducal  Observatory  at  Seeberg, 
near  Gotha.]  Published  in  the  North  American  Review 
for  January,  1822,  Vol.  XIV.       [pp.  26—34.] 

extracts  from  it  in  his  notes  upon  this  letter,  Vol.  X.  p.  231,  and  says,  "  It  will  be  interesting 
to  the  reader  to  learn  how  men  of  science  in  America  render  justice  to  those  of  Germany, 
while  they  reproach  their  brethren  beyond  the  water  for  the  little  attention  which  they  have 
bestowed  upon  our  productions."  Dr.  Bowditch  mentions  in  this  review  an  interesting 
paper  which  Mr.  Ivory  had  published  in  the  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  of  London, 
1814,  giving  a  method  of  his  own  for  computing  the  orbit  of  a  comet,  which,  "  upon  examination, 
turns  out  to  be  nothing  more  than  that  which  Dr.  Olbers  had  published  in  his  work  above 
seventeen  years  before,  although  this  coincidence  must  have  been  wholly  unknown  to  Mr. 
Ivory,  and  to  the  other  members  of  the  Royal  Society.  We  consider  this  as  a  striking 
instance  of  the  little  attention  paid  in  Great  Britain  to  works  of  mathematical  science  printed 
in  Germany."  The  passage  added  by  Mr.  Everett  was  merely  that  which  states  a  like 
neglect  of  German  literature. 

56  MEMOIR. 

A  copy  ot  this  article  on  Encke's  comet  Dr.  Bowditch  also  sent 
with  the  letter  before  mentioned,  to  Baron  Zach,  who,  in  his  notes, 
states  that  Dr.  Bowditch  "  has  here  collected  all  that  has  been  said 
and  done  respecting  this  famous  comet."  In  the  concluding 
paragraph  of  this  article,  the  reviewer  expresses  his  regret  that, 
"while  Great  Britain  alone  can  boast  of  more  than  thirty  public 
and  private  observatories  of  considerable  note,  we  have  not,  in 
the  whole  United  States,  one  that  deserves  the  name."  He  also 
speaks  of  the  duties  imposed  on  the  importation  of  mathematical 
instruments  and  scientific  works,  as  fines  and  penalties,  which  had 
been  justly  called  "  a  bounty  upon  ignorance,"  &c.  This  whole 
paragraph  is  extracted  by  Zach,  (Vol.  X.  p.  245,)  and  he  says, 
"Voici  de  quelle  maniere  un  bon  republicain  exhale  son  chagrin 
en  public ;  c'est  au  moins  quelque  chose"  &c. 

6.  Letter   to    Baron    Zach,    dated   November  22,  1822;  with  a 

Postscript,  dated  December  20,  1823.  Published  in  his 
Correspondance  Astronomique  for  the  year  1824,*  Vol. 
X.        [pp.  223—230.] 

7.  Review,   entitled   "Remarks   on    several  Papers  published   in 

former  Volumes  of  this  Journal;"  [the  first  being  remarks 
on  "A  New  Algebraical  Series,  by  Professor  Wallace,  of 
Columbia,  S.  C. ;"]  published  in  Silliman's  Journal  for 
1824,   Vol.  VIII.     [pp.  131— 139;]  — and  Remarks  on    Mr. 

*  This  letter  has  been  already  more  than  once  referred  to,  and  contains  many  interesting 
facts.  The  editor's  comments  upon  it  occupy  twenty  pages.  With  this  letter  Dr.  Bowditch 
had  sent,  besides  his  articles  mentioned  in  the  two  last  preceding  items,  a  copy  of  the  fifth 
edition  of  the  Practical  Navigator.  The  editor  says  of  him,  "  C'est  le  premier,  et  jusqu'a- 
prcsent  le  seul  grand  geometre  en  Amerique." 

MEMOIR.  57 

Wallace's  Reply ;  published  in  the  same  Journal  for  1825, 

Vol.  IX.        [pp.  293—304.] 

The  reviewer  expresses  his  surprise  that  any  offence  should  have 
been  given  by  the  mere  statement  of  the  historical  fact  that  this 
"  new  series "  was  but  the  usual  development  of  the  binomial 
theorem,  and  the  same  which  had  been  given  by  Euler  fifty  years 

8.  Review  of  "Fund  anient  a  Astronomies"  by  Frederick  William 
Bessel;  1818;  — of  the  Tables  of  the  Moon,  by  M. 
Bnrckhardt ;  1812  ;  —  of  the  New  Tables  of  Jupiter  and 

*  Professor  Wallace,  in  his  Reply,  states  that  he  did  not  claim  the  series  as  new,  and 
appeals  to  a  reference  which  he  had  made  in  his  original  article  to  Mr.  Stainville,  &c,  and, 
not  knowing  who  his  opponent  was,  says  that  he  does  not,  like  his  reviewer,  refer  his  readers 
"to  the  Complement  des  Elemens  d'Algebre,  however  useful  as  a  school-book,"  &c.  He  also 
states,  "  that  the  results  which  Euler  has  given  do  not  include  a  single  case  of  a  transcendent 
function,  and  were  only  given  as  examples  of  the  applications  of  the  simplest  case  of  the 
binomial  theorem,"  &c.  Dr.  Bowditch,  in  his  rejoinder,  mentions  the  vague  terms  in  which 
Mr.  Stainville  had  been  originally  referred  to,  and  says,  "  It  now  appeal's  that  Mr.  Stainville 
gave  it  as  new  for  the  first  time  in  1818,  and  Professor  Wallace  for  the  second  time  in  1824, 
Euler's  having  been  published  in  1775  :  "  and  again  ;  "  It  is  believed  that  most  persons,  after 
reading  what  Professor  W.  has  written,  would  suppose  he  claimed  some,  if  not  a  very  large 
portion,  for  his  own.  But  the  real  fact  is,  that  none  of  it  is  his.  The  whole  of  the  first  seven 
pages,  and  a  large  portion  of  the  two  remaining  pages,  of  Professor  W.'s  first  communication, 
are  merely  literal  translations  from  Stainville  and  Gergonne ;  and  what  is  not  copied  from 
them  is  quite  unimportant."  He  also  says,  "It  is  a  fact,  notwithstanding  the  positive 
declaration  of  Professor  W.  to  the  contrary,  that  Euler's  demonstration  is  not  restricted  to  this 
very  simple  case,  but  is  general  for  all  values  of  the  exponent,  whether  integer,  fractional 
negative,  or  surd ;  and  it  is  characterized  by  Lacroix  as  being  elegant  and  rigorous."  This 
review  will  be  found  quite  amusing  and  piquant.  It  is,  like  the  articles  on  Mr.  Lambert's 
Memorial,  both  as  to  matter  and  style,  a  fair  specimen  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  powers  as  a 
controversial  writer. 

VOL.    IV.  p 

58  MEMOIR. 

of  Saturn,  by  M.  Bouvard ;  1808  ;  —  of  the  Tables  of 
the  Satellites  of  Jupiter,  fyc,  by  31.  Delambre ;  1817; 
—  of  the  Tables  of  Venus,  of  Mars,  and  of  Mercury,  by 
B.  de  Lindenau ;  1810,  1811,  and  1813;  —  and  of  the 
Memoir  on  the  Figure  of  the  Earth,  by  31.  de  Laplace  ; 
1817  and  1818.*  Published  in  the  North  American 
Review  for  April,  1825,  Vol.  XX.       [pp.  309-367.]  f 

This  brief  but  most  comprehensive  article  upon  modern  astronomy 
will  be  found  to  possess  an  uncommon  degree  of  interest.  It 
consists  of  a  series  of  biographical  sketches,  in  which  are  described 
all  who  have  been  remarkable  for  the  successful  cultivation  of 
physical  science  in  modern  times,  bringing  into  view  their  actual 
and  relative  services  and  merits,  and  awarding  to  each  the  degree 
of  approval  to  which  he  was  entitled ;  —  the  writer  now  dwelling 
with  enthusiasm  upon  his  favorite  Lagrange,  now  bestowing  a 
more  qualified  and  guarded  approbation,  or  a  positive  censure,  upon 
others  inferior  in  powers  and  attainments  to  that  distinguished 
mathematician,   or   opposite    to   him   in    character.!      It    comprises, 

*  The  titles  of  the  particular  works  reviewed,  are  here  given  in  an  abridged  form. 

t  In  the  Notes  to  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  p.  95,  a  list  is  given,  without  comment, 
of  six  of  the  above  eight  articles,  the  fifth  and  seventh  not  being  noticed.  All  these 
occasional  publications  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  excepting  the  letter  to  Baron  Zach,  were  collected 
by  him  in  two  volumes,  now  in  his  library. 

t  Thus  he  says,  "  Upon  the  decease  of  Euler,  Lagrange  remained  undisputedly  the 
greatest  mathematician  then  living,"  &tc. ;  while  of  Dr.  Bradley's  successor  he  says,  "  Dr. 
Bliss  was  wholly  unworthy  of  the  office  of  astronomer  royal.  The  account  of  his  life  by 
La  Lande  is  comprised  in  less  than  a  dozen  words  —  '  Bliss  etait  astronome  royal ;  il  mourut 
en  1765.'"  This  article  is  the  one,  of  all  Dr.  Bowditch's  occasional  publications,  which 
exhibits  in  the  clearest  light  his  peculiar  talents  and  acquirements.  Evidently  the  work  of  one 
possessing  a  knowledge  of  the  actual  state  of  mathematical  science,  in  its  various  departments, 

MEMOIR.  59 

especially,  a  very  full  account  of  Dr.  Bradley's  observations,  and 
of  Bessel's  services  in  reducing  them ;  of  the  best  makers  of 
mathematical  instruments  —  Graham,  Bird,  Ramsden,  Troughton, 
Jones,  Reichenbach,  Frauenhofer,  Herschel,  &c.  ;  of  the  successive 
astronomers  royal  at  Greenwich,  and  of  the  other  chief  European 
observers ;  and,  lastly,  "  it  gives  an  account  of  the  labors  of  those 
mathematicians  who  have  improved  the  science  of  astronomy  by 
their  calculations  of  the  effects  of  the  mutual  attractions  of  the 
heavenly  bodies." 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  also,  for  many  years,  a  contributor  to  the 
Annalist  and  Mathematical  Diary,  solving  every  question  there 
proposed,  in  his  usual  style  of  simple  elegance.  He  also  wrote 
or  corrected  various  articles  in  the  American  edition  of  Rees's 
Cyclopaedia.  And  all  these  various  publications  were  the 
employment  merely  of  those  leisure  hours  which  were  left  to  him 
after  all  the  calls  of  active  business,  and  all  the  claims  of  social 
and  domestic  life,  had  been  most  fully  answered;  and  more  than 
this,  and  notwithstanding  all  these  duties  and  engagements,  and 
all  the  occasional  scientific  labors  which  have  been  mentioned,  such 
was  his  wonderful  economy  of  time,  that,  within  the  same  period, 
he  also  completed  what  has  justly  been  characterized  as  the 
gigantic  undertaking  of  making  the  Translation  and  Commentary 
now  before  the  reader,  —  a  work  upon  which,  almost  exclusively, 
will  rest  his  fame  as  a  man  of  science.* 

as  extensive  and  minute  as  was  possessed  by  any  individual  then  living,  —  it  is,  throughout,  a 
record  of  the  most  sound  and  impartial  criticism.  Any  biography  of  him,  which  has  not  this 
review  in  an  appendix,  must  be  incomplete. 

*  Baron  Zach,  in  his  Correspondance  Astronomitpie,  Vol.  X.  p.  234,  A.  D.  1824,  says, 
"  Nous  finirons  cette  note  par  apprendre  a  nos  lecteurs  ce  que  nous  a  revele  le  professeur 

60  MEMOIR. 

Upon  recurring  to  the  Translator's  Preface,  in  the  first  volume, 
it  will  be  found  there  stated  that  "  the  notes  were  written  at  the 
time  of  reading  the  volumes,  as  they  were  successively  published. 
The  translation  was  made  between  the  years  1814  [misprinted 
1815]  and  1817,  at  which  time  the  four  first  volumes,  with  the 
several  appendices  and  notes,  were  ready  for  publication."  The 
fifth  volume,  published  by  La  Place  twenty  years  after  the  others, 
was  never  translated  by  Dr.  Bowditch,  though  he  wrote  many 
important  notes  upon  it.*  It  was  his  intention,  however,  had  he 
lived,  to  translate  the  volume.  Death  has  defeated  forever 
that  intention?  The  work  which  he  had  so  nearly  completed,  no 
one  lives  to  finish  as  he  would  have  finished  it ;  but,  like  the 
beautiful  painting  from  which  was  taken  the  engraving  prefixed  to 
this  memoir,  and  which  never  received  the  final  touch  of  the  dying 
artist,  it  is  the  more  interesting  from  the  circumstances  under 
which  it  was  left  incomplete. 

Everett,  que  M.  Bowditch  a  traduit  en  anglais  toute  la  Mecanique  Celeste  de  M.  La  Place, 
avec  un  ample  commentaire,  mais  qu'on  n'a  pu  encore  le  persuader  de  publier  cet  ouvrage  qui 
ne  pourrait  que  lui  faire  un  honneur  infini,  ainsi  qu'a  son  pays,  mais  nous  soup^onnons 
qu'il  attend  pour  cela  l'ouvrage  de  MM.  Plana  et  Carlini,  qui  est  sur  le  metier,  et  qui  ne 
tardera  pas  a  paraitre."  A  similar  public  announcement  of  this  fact  had  been  made  in  the 
North  American  Review  for  April,  1820,  Vol.  X.  p.  272;  and  the  editor  says  that  Dr 
Bowditch  "  has  not,  however,  yet  been  prevailed  upon  to  do  honor  to  himself  and  to  his 
country,  by  the  publication  of  so  great  and  arduous  a  work." 

*  A  day  or  two  only  before  his  death,  he  received  from  Europe  a  translation,  executed 
by  a  young  lady  whom  he  had  never  seen,  but  who  was  soon  to  become  his  daughter, 
embracing  in  seventy  manuscript  pages  the  first  part  of  the  fifth  volume ;  —  a  suitable  offering 
of  filial  duty  to  one  who  did  not  live  to  thank  her  in  person  for  her  kindness,  but  who  left 
for  her  at  his  decease  an  affectionate  letter,  written  exactly  a  week  before  his  death. 

MEMOIR.  61 

As,  in  the  course  of  publication,  it  became  necessary  to 
incorporate  into  the  notes  much  additional  matter,  owing  to  the 
subsequent  progress  of  mathematical  science,  they  were  all,  in  a 
great  measure,  rewritten ;  and  thus,  perhaps,  the  present  four 
volumes  will  be  found  to  contain  almost  every  thing  of  importance 
in  the  whole  five  volumes  of  the  original  work,  excepting  what 
relates  to  the  earth's  temperature  and  the  velocity  of  sound.* 
Still,  it  was  Dr.  Bowditch's  intention  to  introduce  into  the  fifth 
volume  more  original  matter  than  into  either  of  the  preceding 
ones,  making  it,  as  it  were,  the  general  depository  alike  of  all  the 
results  of  his  extensive  theoretical  investigations,  and  of  the 
practical  experience  of  a  long  life.  It  was,  especially,  a  source  of 
regret  to  him,  that  he  could  not  prepare  the  Index  to  the  work, 
which  he  felt  assured,  from  his  intimate  knowledge  of  its  contents, 
and  of  the  relative  importance  of  the  different  matters  of  which 
it  treats,  he  was  more  competent  to  prepare  than  any  one  else. 
That  duty,  we  believe,  however,  will  at  a  future  time  be  ably 
performed  by  a  friend,  (Benjamin  Peirce,  Esq.,  Professor  of 
Mathematics  in  Harvard  University,)  whose  revision  of  the  entire 
work,  when  in  the  process  of  publication,  and  vigilance  in  detecting 
typographical  errors,  Dr.  Bowditch  always  valued  as  an  additional 
means  of  insuring  its  accuracy. 

It  would  not  be  our  desire,  were  we  competent  to  the  task,  to 
offer  any  criticism  upon  the  present  work.  It  will  itself  speak  to 
every  reader.  A  few  remarks,  however,  upon  the  motives,  views, 
and  objects  of  the  translator  may  not  be  inappropriate. 

*  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  p.  54. 
vol.  iv.  q 

62  MEMOIR. 

In  the  first  place,  then,  his  great  design  was  to  supply  those 
steps  in  the  author's  demonstrations,  which  were  not  discoverable 
without  much  study  and  research,  and  which  had  rendered  the 
original  work  so  abstruse  and  difficult,  as  to  lead  a  writer  in  the 
Edinburgh  Review  to  say  there  were  not  twelve  individuals  in 
Great  Britain  who  could  read  it  with  any  facility.*  Dr.  Bowditch 
himself  was  accustomed  to  remark,  "  Whenever  I  meet  in  La 
Place  with  the  words  '  Thus  it  plainly  appears,'  I  am  sure  that 
hours,  and  perhaps  days,  of  hard  study  will  alone  enable  me  to 
discover  how  it  plainly  appears."  So  important  did  he  consider 
the  object  which  he  thus  had  in  view,  that  every  letter  which  he 
received,  proving  to  his  satisfaction  the  fact  of  some  young  man's 
having  read  his  Translation  and  Commentary,  afforded  him 
much  more  pleasure  than  the  favorable  mention  of  it  in  popular 
journals,  or  even  than  the  flattering  approbation  bestowed  by 
competent  judges  ;  since,  while  the  one  would  be  but  an  opinion, 
the  other  would  be  a  proof,  that  the  great  end  of  his  labors  had 
been  accomplished.  He  received  several  such  letters.  M. 
Lacroix  wrote  to  him  that  he  had  recommended  the  work  to  a 
young   professor  at  Lausanne.       There   can,  indeed,  be  no   doubt 

*  "  We  will  venture  to  say,  that  the  number  of  those  in  this  island  who  can  read  that  work 
with  any  tolerable  facility,  is  small  indeed.  If  we  reckon  two  or  three  in  London  and  the 
military  schools  in  its  vicinity,  the  same  number  at  each  of  the  English  Universities,  and 
perhaps  four  in  Scotland,  we  shall  hardly  exceed  a  dozen ;  and  yet  we  are  fully  persuaded  that 
our  reckoning   is   beyond  the  truth."  —  Edinburgh   Review,  1S08,  Vol.   XI.  p.  281. 

In  America,  two,  and  perhaps  three  persons,  besides  Dr.  Bowditch,  were  able  to  read  the 
original  work  critically ;  but  a  competent  judge  has  doubted  whether  the  whole  of  it  had 
been  so  read  even  by  one. 

MEMOIR.  63 

that  it  lias  been  truly  said  by  a  late  foreign  review,*  respecting 
this  Translation  and  Commentary,  "  a  work  which  existed  in  mere 
abstraction  before,  has  been  made  as  accessible,  to  all  public  and 
popular  purposes,  as  its  essential  nature  would  permit ; "  and  by 
another  review, t  "  the  notes  to  each  page  leave  no  step  in  the 
text,  of  moment,  unsupplied,  and  hardly  any  material  difficulty 
of  conception  or  reasoning  unelucidated."  t  Mr.  Babbage,  in  a 
letter  to  the  translator,  August  5,  1832,  says,  "It  is  a  proud 
circumstance  for  America,  that  she  has  preceded  her  parent 
country  in  such  an  undertaking ;  and  we  in  England  must  be 
content  that  our  language  is  made  the  vehicle  of  the  sublimest 
portion  of  human  knowledge,  and  be  grateful  to  you  for  rendering 
it    more   accessible." 

A  second  great  object  of  the  translator  was,  to  continue 
the  original  work  to  the  present  time,  so  that  it  should  place 
in  possession  of  the  reader  the  many  recent  improvements 
and  discoveries  in  mathematical  science.  That  the  most 
eminent  living  mathematicians  consider  this  end  to  have  been 
attained,  clearly  appears  by  the  following  extracts  from  letters 
addressed  by  them  to  Dr.  Bovvditch,  and  now  before  us: — M. 
Lacroix  says,  July  5,  1836,  "I  am  more  and  more  astonished 
at    your    continued    perseverance    in    a    task    so    laborious    and 

*  London  Athenaeum,  1838. 

t  London  Quarterly  Review,  Vol.  XLVII.  p.  558. 

t  An  English  professor  of  mathematics,  who  was  at  Rome  in  the  winter  of  1836-1837, 
told  a  friend  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  that  he  was  indebted  to  these  notes  for  his  knowledge  of 
La  Place ;  and  that,  though  he  did  not  expect  to  be  very  long  absent  from  England,  he  had 
ordered  the  next  volume  to  be  sent  after  him  to  Italy,  if  it  should  appear  before  his  return 

64  MEMOIR. 

extensive.  I  perceive  that  you  do  not  confine  yourself  to  the 
mere  text  of  your  author,  and  to  the  elucidations  which  it 
requires  ;  but  you  subjoin  the  parallel  passages  and  subsequent 
remarks  of  those  geometers  who  have  treated  of  the  same  subjects  ; 
so  that  your  work  will  embrace  the  actual  state  of  science  at 
the  time  of  its  publication."  —  M.  Legendre,  in  a  letter  dated  at 
Paris,  July  2,  1832,  says,  "  Your  work  is  not  merely  a  translation 
with  a  commentary;  I  regard  it  as  a  new  edition,  augmented 
and  improved,  and  such  a  one  as  might  have  come  from  the 
hands  of  the  author  himself,  if  he  had  consulted  his  true  interest, 
that  is,  if  he  had  been  solicitously  studious  of  being  clear,"  &c.  — & 
Mr.  Bessel,  also,  in  a  letter  dated  at  Konigsberg,  February  18, 
1836,  writes,  "  Through  your  labors  on  the  Mechanism  of  the 
Heavens,  La  Place's  work  is  brought  down  to  our  own  time, 
as  you  add  to  it  the  studies  of  geometricians  since  its  first 
appearance.  You  yourself  enrich  this  science  by  your  own 
additions,  for  which  especial  obligations  are  due  to  you."  —  M. 
Puissant  (in  a  letter  dated  May  31,  1835,  and  addressed  to 
D.  B.  Warden,  Esq.,  through  whose  agency  Dr.  Bowditch  had 
transmitted  to  him  a  copy  of  this  work)  observes,  "  The  numerous 
additions  which  accompany  the  text,  and  which,  in  their  turn, 
deserve  to  be  translated  into  French,  are  the  more  important, 
as  they  clear  away  the  difficulties  which  the  subject  frequently 
presents,  and  moreover  include  whatever  Dr.  Bowditch  and  other 
geometers  have  added  to  the  theory  of  the  motions  of  the 
heavenly  bodies." 

A    third    object    of    the    translator    was   one    which,    though 
wholly  subordinate  to  the  others,  he  still  thought  of  considerable 

MEMOIR.  65 

importance.  La  Place  had  so  modified,  by  the  action  of  his  own 
mind,  the  various  productions  of  other  men  of  genius,  that,  while 
he  stated  the  results  of  their  labors,  or  adopted  their  improvements, 
he  did  not  remember,  or  at  least  did  not  think  it  necessary  to  admit, 
the  source  to  which  he  was,  in  each  particular  instance,  indebted. 
His  work  told  the  great  truths  of  science,  but  omitted  to  state  by 
whom  those  truths  had  been  first  discovered  and  announced.  But 
it  must  be  remembered  that  it  was  concise  in  all  its  processes  and 
expressions  ;  and  he  probably  felt  that  every  reader,  whose  genius 
could  follow  him  into  the  depth  of  his  abstruse  speculations,  must 
necessarily  have  previously  read  the  same  works  from  which  he  had 
himself  derived  assistance  ;  and  that,  familiar  as  they  must  be  to  the 
reader  already,  it  would  be  superfluous,  by  any  acknowledgment 
or  quotation,  to  direct  attention  to  them.  Be  this  as  it  may, 
the  fact  is  certain  that,  in  the  original  work,  credit  is  frequently 
not  given  to  the  eminent  mathematicians  of  ancient  and  modern 
times,  by  whose  labors  those  of  its  author  were  rendered  less 
difficult  or  more  effective.  But  Dr.  Bowditch  thought  it  due 
to  the  cause  of  literary  justice,  that,  in  every  such  instance,  the 
omission  in  the  original  work  should  be  supplied.  Several  of 
the  communications  which  he  received,  mention  his  course  in 
this  respect  with  high  approbation,  and  express  the  regret  of 
the  writers  that  La  Place  should  himself  have  thought  and  acted 
otherwise.  Dr.  Bowditch  was  well  aware  of  that  natural  self- 
love,  by  which  every  one  is  gratified  at  finding  his  labors  approved 
by  others  ;  and  he  could  especially  realize  how  great  must  have  been 
the  pleasure  felt  at  being  quoted  by  La  Place  for  some  important 
process  or  discovery  which  had  contributed  to  the  completeness  of 
the  Mecanique  Celeste.  He  had  communicated  to  the  public,  and 
vol.  iv.  r 

66  MEMOIR. 

to  La  Place  himself,  a  notice  of  an  error  in  the  original  work, 
which  was  corrected  in  a  subsequent  edition,  but  without  even  a 
private  acknowledgment.  That  it  was  not  publicly  noticed  by 
the  author,  was  of  course,  for  the  reason  above  stated,  no  cause 
of  any  especial  complaint.  And  Dr.  Bowditch  well  knew  by 
personal  experience,  upon  more  than  one  occasion,  that  it  was  very 
possible  his  own  letter  to  La  Place,  or  La  Place's  reply,  might 
have  miscarried.*  It  has  also  been  suggested,  that  La  Place  was 
extremely  averse  to  the  act  of  writing  a  letter  at  any  time,  however 
strong  or  urgent  a  motive  existed  for  so  doing.  This  was  certainly 
the  case  with  Dr.  Bowditch.  Often,  upon  the  receipt  of  an  epistle 
or  note,  he  has  taken  his  hat,  called  personally  upon  the  writer, 
and  given  him  a  verbal  answer. f 

*  Eight  copies  of  the  first  volume  of  this  Translation  and  Commentary,  sent  by 
him  as  presents  to  the  most  distinguished  institutions  and  astronomers  of  Germany,  wholly 
failed  to  reach  their  place  of  destination  ;  and  several  copies  of  the  first  volume  of  Struve's 
Observations,  transmitted  by  the  author  as  presents  from  the  Imperial  Observatory  at  Dorpat 
in  Russia  to  the  Royal  Society  of  London,  in  1821,  found  their  way,  with  the  original  letter 
which  accompanied  them,  to  a  bookstore  in  Boston,  in  1824,  where  Dr.  Bowditch  accidentally 
saw  and  purchased  them  ;  retaining  one  of  which  for  his  own  use,  he  transmitted  all  the  others 
as  at  first  directed.  He  received  no  reply  whatever,  and  presumed  that  the  same  evil  destiny 
had  a"ain  followed  them.  But  some  years  afterwards,  he  found  in  Schumacher's  Astronornische 
Nachrichten,  Vol.  IV.  p.  398,  a  letter  to  the  editor,  from  Francis  Baily,  Esq.,  of  London, 
dated  January  19,  1826,  giving  an  account  of  their  curious  wanderings;  of  the  agency  of 
"  Mr.  Bowditch,  the  celebrated  American  astronomer,"  in  the  matter ;  and  of  their  safe  arrival 
at  last,  "  after  a  long  and  circuitous  voyage  of  five  years,  from  Dorpat  to  Boston,  and  from 
Boston  to  London. 

f  When  his  third  son  went  to  Europe  to  pursue  his  medical  studies,  he  gave  him  no 
letters  of  introduction,  but,  as  a  substitute  for  them,  certain  copies  of  a  newly-published 
volume  of  this  work  to  deliver  as  presents. 

MEMOIR.  67 

We  should  much  regret  that  any  of  the  preceding  remarks 
should  be  construed  as  in  the  least  degree  attributing  to  La  Place 
an  intentional  or  unfair  appropriation  to  himself  of  the  fruits  of 
the  labor  of  others.  We  allude  only  to  an  error  of  judgment, 
which,  though  easily  accounted  for  upon  the  above  suppositions, 
is  much  to  be  regretted,  as  having  occasionally  exposed  him  to  this 
more  serious  imputation.  Any  such  omission  of  the  author,  as 
far  as  Dr.  Bowditch  was  himself  concerned,  was,  long  before  his 
decease,  wholly  effaced  from  his  memory  by  the  kindness  shown 
to  one  of  his  sons  by  the  widow  of  La  Place,  who  transmitted,  by 
his  hands,  as  a  present  to  his  father,  a  bust  of  her  late  husband, 
which  has  ever  since  been  one  of  the  ornaments  of  his  library, 
and  which,  by  a  provision  of  his  will,  is  eventually  to  be  deposited, 
with  the  manuscript  of  this  work,  in  the  Library  of  Harvard 
College,  there  to  be  preserved  as  a  joint  memorial  of  the 
author  and  the  commentator. 

Such  were  the  three  chief  objects  which  it  was  the  design  of 
this  Commentary  to  accomplish;  and  the  general  merits  of  the  work 
have  been  acknowledged,  in  language  no  less  strong  than  that 
already  quoted,  by  Professor  Airy,  Francis  Baily,  Esq.,  the  late 
Bishop  of  Cloyne,  and  other  astronomers  of  Great  Britain,  as  well 
as  by  those  of  France,  Germany,  and  Italy.  Thus,  Sir  John 
Herschel,  in  a  letter  to  the  translator,  dated  March  8,  1830,  says, 
"  It  is  very  gratifying  to  me  to  commence  a  scientific  intercourse, 
which  I  have  long  desired,  with  the  congratulations  which  the 
accomplishment  of  so  great  a  work  naturally  calls  for  ;  and  I  trust 
that  its  reception  by  the  public  will  be  such  (of  which,  indeed, 
there  can  be  little  doubt)  as  to  encourage  you  to  proceed  to  the 

68  MEMOIR. 

publication  of  the  succeeding  volumes,  and  that  you  will  be 
favored  with  health,  strength,  and  leisure,  to  enable  you  to 
complete  the  whole  of  this  gigantic  task  in  the  masterly  manner 
in  which  you  have  commenced  it.  It  is  a  work,  indeed,  of  which 
your  nation  may  well  be  proud,  as  demonstrating  that  the  spirit 
of  energy  and  enterprise  which  forms  the  distinguishing  feature 
of  its  character,  is  carried  into  the  regions  of  science ;  and 
every  expectation  of  future  success  may  be  justified  from  such 
beginnings."  —  There  was  also  one  delicate  attention  which  he 
received  from  a  female  hand.  Mrs.  Somerville  sent  a  copy  of  her 
translation  of  a  part  of  this  work  to  him  who  was  so  happily  and 
successfully  engaged  in  the  same  labors.  This  volume,  invested  by 
him  in  a  rich  and  beautiful  binding,  still  attests  the  pleasure  which 
he  derived  from  it  as  a  tribute  of  respect  to  his  genius  from  one  of 
the  most  gifted  women  of  the  age.  —  M.  Lacroix,  in  a  letter  of 
April  5,  1830,  writes,  "Besides  doing  honor  to  the  able,  patient, 
and  conscientious  geometer,  who  has  undertaken  this  great  labor, 
your  work,  by  the  beauty  of  its  typographical  execution,  does  honor 
to  the  country  where  it  is  published.  It  is  perhaps  the  most 
beautiful  book  which  has  appeared  upon  mathematics.  The 
calculations  in  it  possess  the  greatest  neatness ;  and  the  figures 
which  you  have  inserted  in  the  body  of  the  work  itself  unite 
the  greatest  elegance  with  convenience.  An  undertaking  so 
remarkable  entitles  you  to  the  gratitude  of  those  who  are 
desirous  of  studying  to  the  bottom  the  theory  of  the  system  of 
the  world,  which  rests  upon  transcendental  mechanics;  and  it 
makes  us  wish  for  the  speedy  publication  of  the  remaining 
volumes."  —  So  also  Mr.  Encke  of  Berlin,  in  a  letter  dated 
May  o,    183G,    speaks    of  it    as    a    work    "which,    by    the    depth 

MEMOIR.  69 

of  the  researches  with  which  it  is  accompanied,  will  insure 
to  you  a  distinguished  place  among  the  astronomers  who 
have  employed  themselves  on  the  difficult  branch  of  physical 
astronomy."  —  Mr.  Cacciatore,  conductor  of  the  Royal  Observatory 
at  Palermo,  in  a  letter  dated  May  1,  1836,  mentions  it  as 
having  "  excited  the  enthusiasm  of  all  who  took  an  interest  in  the 
subject  of  it ; "  and  in  his  treatise  on  Goniometry  he  remarks, 
"  The  profoundness  and  clearness  which  are  conspicuous  in 
that  work,  demonstrate  that  it  was  only  by  the  aid  of  such 
powers  of  analysis  that  a  commentary  could  be  written  upon 
the  immortal  work  of  La  Place,  and  that  La  Place  cannot  be 
read  with  advantage  unless  it  is  accompanied  with  the  notes  of 
Bowditch.      Italy  must  have  a  translation  of  it."  * 

The  translation  of  this  work  was,  as  has  been  stated,  completed 
as  early  as  1817;  but  so  limited  was  Dr.  Bowditch's  income, 
that  it  hardly  sufficed  to  meet  the  expenses  of  a  growing  family, 
upon  all  of  whom  he  was  desirous  to  confer  the  advantages  of  the 
best  education  which  the  country  afforded  ;  and  all  that  was  not 
needed  for  this  purpose  was  expended  in  collecting  around  him 
the  choicest  scientific  works  of  ancient  and  modern  times.  The 
American  Academy,  with  that  kindness  and  liberality  which  ever 
marked  their  intercourse  with  their  late  President,  and  which  have 
characterized  their  proceedings  since  his  decease,  offered  to  publish 
the  work  at  their  own  expense.  He  was  also  solicited  to  publish 
it  by  subscription.  But  his  natural  and  praiseworthy  independence 
of   spirit  induced    him  unhesitatingly    to  decline    these    gratifying 

*  See  Notes  to  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  pp.  96 — 100. 

VOL.   IV.  5 

70  MEMOIR. 

proposals.  He  was  aware,  from  the  character  of  the  work,  that 
it  would  find  but  few  readers,  and  he  did  not  wish  any  one  to  feel 
compelled,  or  to  be  induced  to  subscribe  for  it,  lest  he  should  have 
it  in  his  power  to  say,  "  I  patronized  Mr.  Bowditch  by  buying  his 
book,  which  I  cannot  read."  He  was  thus  obliged  to  wait  even 
longer  than  the  time  prescribed  by  the  poet,  "  nonumque  prematur 
in  annum,"  —  until,  under  more  favorable  circumstances,  he  was 
enabled  to  commence  the  publication  at  his  own  expense. 

But,  though  this  work  was  not  yet  published,  his  fame  as  a 
mathematician  had  become  fully  established,  and  several  of  the 
scientific  institutions  of  this  country  and  of  Europe  conferred  upon 
him  their  highest  honors.  The  following  are  the  foreign  societies 
of  which  he  was  admitted  a  member,  and  the  date  of  the  several 
diplomas  :  —  The  Edinburgh  Royal  Society,  January  26,  1818  ;  the 
Royal  Society  of  London,  March  12,  1818  ;  Royal  Irish  Academy, 
March  16,  1819;  Royal  Astronomical  Society  of  London,  April  13, 
1832 ;  Royal  Academy  of  Palermo,  March  12,  1835  ;  British 
Association,  June  29,  1835 ;  Royal  Academy  of  Berlin,  March, 
1836.  It  is  worthy  of  remark,  that  France,  the  labors  of  whose 
greatest  author  have  been  by  him  rendered  of  so  much  more 
practical  value  and  extensive  usefulness,  should  alone  have 
withheld  from  him  the  like  honors.'5  In  this  country,  he  was 
elected  a  member  of  the  American  Philosophical  Society  held 
at  Philadelphia,  April  21,  1809 ;  of  the  Connecticut  Academy 
of  Arts  and   Sciences,  October  26,  1813;  and  of  the  Literary  and 

*  It  is  indeed  mentioned  in  Mr.  Pickering's  Eulogy,  p.  101,  that,  but  for  his  death,  he 
would  probably  soon  have  been  elected  a  member  of  the  Royal  Institute  of  France. 

MEMOIR.  71 

Philosophical  Society  of  New  York,  January  17,  1815  ;  &c.  &c.  ; 
and  at  the  annual  commencement  in  1816,  he  received  from 
Harvard  College  the  honorary  degree  of  Doctor  of  Laws. 

Dr.  Bowditch  always  felt  a  deep  interest  in  the  various  literary, 
scientific,  and  charitable  institutions  of  his  native  town.  It  was 
chiefly  through  his  instrumentality  that,  in  1810,  a  union  was 
effected  between  the  Philosophical  Library,  before  referred  to,  and 
the  Social  Library,  so  called,  which  was  the  origin  of  the  Salem 
Athenaeum  ;  and  from  that  period,  during  his  whole  residence  in 
Salem,  he  continued  to  be  one  of  its  most  active  and  influential 
trustees.  Having  felt,  in  early  life,  the  importance  of  a  ready 
access  to  books,  he  labored  to  promote  a  most  free  and  extensive 
circulation  through  the  community,  of  the  works  in  this  institution, 
and  to  make  its  advantages  as  easy  of  attainment  as  possible,  by 
every  deserving  individual.  The  gratitude  inspired  in  his  breast 
by  the  recollection  of  his  own  obligations  of  this  nature,  when  he 
was  but  a  poor  apprentice,  ended  only  with  his  life.  Recurring  to 
this  subject  in  his  will,  he  says,  "These  inestimable  advantages 
have  made  me  deeply  a  debtor  to  the  Salem  Athenaeum; "  and  in 
return  he  bequeathed  to  it  the  sum  of  one  thousand  dollars.  In 
accepting  this  bequest,  the  trustees  admit  most  fully  that  "the 
early  benefits  which  he  thus  gratefully  remembered  in  his  will,"  he 
had  before  repaid  by  his  services  and  donations ;  and  they  add 
that  they  "  see  in  this  last  act  the  unconscious  and  disinterested 
devotedness  with  which  he,  through  a  life  of  activity  and  business, 
fostered  all  the  interests  of  learning  and  education," 

Equally  strong  and  lasting  was  his  gratitude  towards  another 

72  MEMOIR. 

excellent  institution,  the  Salem  Marine  Society.  Composed 
exclusively,  as  its  name  denotes,  of  such  as  had  made  the  sea  the 
scene  of  their  enterprising  labors,  Dr.  Bowditch  and  his  father 
had  been  both  successively  enrolled  among  its  members.  The 
kind  and  timely  aid,  to  which,  during  several  years  of  his  infancy 
and  childhood,  he  had  been  indebted  for  some  of  the  absolute 
necessaries  of  life,  he  mentioned  with  emotion  to  his  children, 
during  his  last  illness,  and  deemed  that  he  but  paid  a  debt  to  this 
institution  when  he  bequeathed  to  it  a  like  sum  of  one  thousand 
dollars,  in  aid  of  its  charitable  objects  and  purposes.  His  associates 
in  this  society  were  peculiarly  competent  judges  of  the  value  of 
his  labors  and  services ;  and  we  doubt  if  our  language  could 
be  made  to  present  a  more  simple  and  beautiful  expression  of 
gratitude  and  regard  than  is  imbodied  in  the  following  extracts 
from  resolutions  adopted  by  them  upon  the  occasion  of  his  decease  : 
— "  In  his  death  a  public,  a  national,  a  human  benefactor  has 
departed.  Not  this  community,  nor  our  country  only,  but  the 
whole  world,  has  reason  to  do  honor  to  his  memory.  When  the 
voice  of  Eulogy  shall  be  still,  when  the  tear  of  Sorrow  shall  cease 
to  flow,  no  monument  will  be  needed  to  keep  alive  his  memory 
among  men  ;  but  as  long  as  ships  shall  sail,  the  needle  point  to 
the  north,  and  the  stars  go  through  their  wonted  courses  in  the 
heavens,  the  name  of  Dr.  Bowditch  will  be  revered  as  of  one  who 
helped  his  fellow-men  in  a  time  of  need,  who  was  and  is  a  guide 
to  them  over  the  pathless  ocean,  and  of  one  who  forwarded  the 
great  interests  of  mankind." 

Each    stranger    who    visits    the    hospitable    city    of   Salem,    is 
desirous    to    see    the    Museum  of  the    Salem  East   India  Marine 

MEMOIR.  73 

Society,  or,  as  it  is  familiarly  called,  the  Salem  Museum.  It  is 
readily  and  gratuitously  opened  to  his  inspection.  As  he  enters  its 
spacious  hall,  his  attention  is  arrested  by  a  full  length  portrait  of 
its  late  President.  There  the  Commentator  on  the  Mecanique 
Celeste  seems  still  to  preside  in  person  over  a  favorite  scene  of 
his  labors,  inviting  the  attention  of  the  visiter  to  what  he  has 
himself,  in  his  will,  described  as  "  a  museum  of  a  very  rare 
and  peculiar  character,  collected  from  distant  countries,  and 
affording  a  proof  alike  of  the  enterprise,  taste,  and  liberality  of 
such  of  the  citizens  of  Salem  as  have  followed  a  seafaring  life." 
The  members  of  this  society  are  such  only  as  have  sailed,  in  the 
capacity  of  masters  or  supercargoes,  beyond  the  Cape  of  Good 
Hope  or  Cape  Horn ;  and  besides  the  obtaining  of  curiosities 
from  these  distant  regions,  an  object  of  much  greater  practical 
importance,  the  collection  of  facts  and  observations  in  aid  of 
nautical  science,  has  always  been  zealously  promoted  by  this 
society,  and  is  believed  to  have  been  suggested  by  Dr.  Bowditch 
himself.  A  blank  book  is  furnished  to  each  member,  uniformly 
prepared  for  recording  these  facts  and  observations  during  each 
voyage  ;  and,  upon  the  return  of  the  vessel,  it  is  deposited  with 
the  society.  It  is  then  examined  by  a  committee,  who  select 
and  record  in  other  volumes,  having  a  convenient  index  for 
reference,  all  that  they  consider  important ;  and  the  result  is 
a  mass  of  nautical  information,  such  as,  probably,  exists 
nowhere  else  in  the  world,  and  which  Dr.  Bowditch  found  of  great 
service  in  preparing  for  the  press  the  various  editions  of  the 
Practical  Navigator.  He  was  for  many  years  Inspector  of  its 
Journals,  before  he  became  its  President,  and,  in  both  of  these 
relations  to  the  society,  highly  promoted  its  progress  and 
vol.  iv.  t 

74  MEMOIR. 

success.  Owning  Salem  for  our  birthplace,  we  feel  proud  of  this 
institution ;  and  we  know  that  the  bequest  to  it  by  its  former 
President  of  the  like  sum  of  one  thousand  dollars,  was  made  from 
an  actual  sense  of  obligations  conferred,  as  in  the  case  of  the  two 
other  institutions  which  he  thus  remembered. 

Besides  these  duties  and  engagements  of  a  public  nature,  Dr. 
Bowditch  became,  in  1818,  and  was  at  his  death,  trustee  for 
managing  an  estate  of  nearly  half  a  million  of  dollars,  which  had 
been  left  by  a  merchant  of  Salem  ;  and  it  may  truly  be  said  that 
there  seemed  to  be  no  end  to  the  various  little  services  and  good 
offices  which  he  constantly  delighted  to  render,  and  for  which  he 
was  always  sure  to  find  the  requisite  leisure.  His  fondness  for 
imparting  as  well  as  acquiring  knowledge,  was  still  manifested  ; 
as  an  instance  of  which  it  may  be  mentioned  that  he  instructed 
several  young  ladies  of  Salem  in  French. 

In  his  political  opinions,  he  was  a  decided  Federalist,  and 
during  the  late  war  between  this  country  and  Great  Britain,  he 
took  great  interest  in  the  absorbing  and  important  events  of 
the  time.  It  has  been  stated  that,  when  this  war  was  first 
declared,  he  was,  for  two  or  three  days,  wholly  unable  to  attend 
to  his  usual  engagements  of  business  or  study.  At  the  end  of 
this  time,  however,  he  addressed  his  wife  with  "  This  will  never 
do  ;  "  and,  summoning  a  resolution  to  hope  for  the  best,  as  the  evil 
could  not  be  avoided,  he  returned  with  alacrity  to  his  ordinary 
course  of  life  ;  and  nothing  more  was  ever  heard  from  him  about 
the  war,  except  that  he  often  expressed  the  ardent  hope  of 
obtaining  a  speedy  and  an  honorable  peace,   and    used    all    those 

MEMOIR.  75 

exertions  which  he  thought  the  crisis  required  to  accomplish  so 
desirable  an  end.*  It  is  believed  that,  later  in  life,  and  in  view 
of  its  incidental  and  remote  results,  he  regarded  this  war,  if 
not  as  a  necessary  vindication  of  the  national  honor,  at  least  as 
far  less  disastrous  in  its  consequences  than  he  had  anticipated. 

An  instance  may  be  mentioned  of  a  fearless  and  independent 
discharge  of  duty,  upon  an  occasion  involving  quite  an  exciting 
political  topic.  The  legislature  had  passed  a  law  in  which  a 
comma  was  inserted  contrary,  probably,  to  the  true  intention  of 
the  law-makers  ;  but  the  mistake  (if  it  were  one)  existed  in 
the  original  draft,  and  in  all  the  printed  copies  of  the  statute* 
Certain  acts  had  been  done  by  the  Federalists,  under  authority 
of  the  law  as  actually  promulgated,  which  their  political  opponents 
thought  indictable  offences,  and  which  would  have  been  so,  if  the 
comma  had  been  transposed.  A  term  of  court  was  held  in  Salem, 
and  Dr.  Bowditch  was  returned  upon  the  grand  jury,  and  his 
associates  elected  him  foreman.  lie  had  made  himself  thoroughly 
acquainted  with  this  particular  case,  and  had  with  him  a  legal 
opinion  drawn  up  by  one  whose  knowledge  of  law  commanded 
universal  respect.  The  prosecuting  officer  of  the  government 
attended  before  the  jury,  and,  after  stating  that  it  was  incumbent 

*  On  one  occasion,  he  was  distributing  votes  at  the  ballot  box,  upon  a  very  inclement 
day,  by  the  side  of  a  political  opponent,  whose  efforts  just  counteracted  his  own.  Each  was 
troubled  with  a  severe  cold,  and  Dr.  Bowditch  proposed  that  they  should  both  go  home, 
as  he  was  satisfied  that  their  absence  would  leave  the  final  result  the  same  as  if  they  both 
continued  their  labors.  His  opponent  smiled,  and  objected  to  the  proposition,  that  it  would 
indicate  a  lukewarmness  in  a  good  cause.  This  reason  immediately  operated  upon  Dr. 
Bowditch  to  withdraw  his  proposition,  and  the  equal  struggle  was  resumed. 

76  MEMOIR. 

upon  him  to  give  them  any  legal  information  which  might  be 
needed  in  the  course  of  their  duties,  added  that  complaints  would 
be  laid  before  them  of  violations  of  this  statute,  which  he 
accordingly  proceeded  to  explain.  Dr.  Bowditch  said,  "  Sir,  I 
doubt  the  accuracy  of  your  explanation.  Have  you  got  the  statute 
with  you?"  The  legal  adviser  said  he  had,  and  produced  it,  and 
read  it  with  a  wrong  emphasis,  as  if  the  comma  were  otherwise 
inserted.  Dr.  Bowditch  indignantly  interrupted  him  :  "  Please, 
sir,  to  show  me  the  book  :  "  and  on  looking  at  it,  he  added,  "  Why 
did  you  so  read  it  as,  by  your  emphasis,  to  give  us  a  false  impression 
of  its  meaning?"  The  reply  was,  "There  is  no  doubt  the  comma 
is  inserted  where  it  now  is,  only  by  mistake."  Dr.  Bowditch 
said  "  It  is  your  duty,  sir,  to  tell  us  what  the  law  is  as  you 
find  it,  not  to  tell  how  you  think  it  ought  to  be  improved  or  altered. 
We  have  no  further  occasion  for  your  services  at  present ;  when 
we  wish  them,  we  will  send  for  you."  His  associates  on  the 
jury,  though  nearly  equally  divided  in  political  sentiments,  were 
hio-hly  gratified  hy  his  characteristic  promptness  and  energy,  and 
refused  to  find  any  bills  of  indictment  for  the  supposed  violations 
of  law,  and  unanimously  passed  a  very  full  vote  of  thanks  to  him 
for  the  fairness  and  independence  with  which  he  had  presided 
over  their  deliberations. 

For  the  last  twenty  years  of  his  life,  he  retired  altogether 
from  the  exciting  scenes  of  political  strife  to  what  he  called  his 
"peaceful  mathematics  ;"  though  he  still  continued  to  entertain  and 
express  decided  opinions  upon  public  men  and  measures,  and  to  act 
upon  these  convictions.  Dr.  Bowditch  was  never  fond  of  public  life. 
He  never  held  a  seat  in  the  House  of  Representatives  of  his  native 

MEMOIR.  77 

state,  and  was  never  a  speaker  in  the  assemblies  of  his  fellow- 
citizens.  He  was,  however,  elected  to  the  honorable  office  of 
one  of  the  Executive  Council  of  Massachusetts,  which  he  held 
during  the  years  1815  and  1816,  being,  during  one  of  those 
years,  at  the  council  board  under  the  administration  of  Governor 
Strong,  far  whose  dignified  manners,  commanding  talents,  and 
exalted  character,  he  entertained  the  highest  respect  ;  and  this 
sentiment,  it  is  believed,  was  cordially  reciprocated  on  the  part 
of  the  chief  magistrate.  At  this  board,  upon  more  than  one 
trying  occasion,  he  gave  his  vote  and  exerted  his  influence  in 
support  of  the  law,  and  refused  to  screen  from  its  penalties  the 
murderer  and  other  criminals  who  had  deliberately  violated  its 
provisions  without  any  palliating  circumstances  ;  notwithstanding 
the  strong  and  urgent  appeals  in  their  behalf,  made  by  many 
excellent  and  benevolent  citizens,  among  whom  were  some  of 
his  own  personal  friends.  He  considered  that  a  enpricious 
exercise  of  even  the  prerogative  of  mercy,  would,  in  effect, 
convert  a  government  of  law  into  a  government  of  men. 

Dr.  Bowditch's  father  had  originally  worshipped  at  the  Episcopal 
church  in  Salem,  but  became  a  member  of  Dr.  Bentley's  society 
while  his  son  was  quite  young.  Upon  his  second  marriage, 
Dr.  Bowditch  removed  to  a  different  part  of  the  town,  and,  for 
this  and  other  reasons,  became  a  member  of  the  society  under 
the  pastoral  care  of  his  friend  Dr.  Prince,  and  always  continued 
so  during  his  residence  in  Salem.  Within  the  walls  of  its 
ancient  church  was  the  first  simple  rite  of  the  Christian  religion 
administered  to  all  his  children.  A  coolness  on  the  part  of  Dr. 
Bentley,   originating    in  this    removal    from   his   society,   resulted, 

VOL.   IV.  u 

78  MEMOIR. 

from  political  causes  during  the  war,  in  an  entire  estrangement, 
which  was  always  a  source  of  regret  to  Dr.  Bowditch,  who  made 
the  first  advances  toward  a  reconciliation,  by  a  direct  call  at  his 
house  with  a  friend  who  desired  an  introduction.  The  visiters 
were  received  with  the  utmost  cordiality,  and  the  intercourse, 
thus  happily  renewed,  was  never  afterwards  interrupted  ;  and  the 
family  still  retain  in  their  possession  memorials  both  of  the  early 
and  the  late  friendship  of  Dr.  Bentley.  It  was  indeed  particularly 
delightful  to  Dr.  Bowditch  to  find  that  the  restoration  of  peace  to 
the  country,  brought  with  it  a  renewal  of  that  social  intercourse 
which  political  dissensions  had  wholly  interrupted.  He  often 
mentioned  the  visit  of  Mr.  Monroe,  the  President  of  the  United 
States,  to  the  town  of  Salem,  in  1817,  as  an  occasion  never  to  be 
forgotten,  because  it  was  the  first  upon  which,  after  a  separation 
of  many  years,  were  again  brought  together  within  the  same 
circle  so  many  of  his  earliest  and  most  valued  friends. 

Many  and  very  flattering  and  advantageous  proposals  were 
made  to  Dr.  Bowditch,  from  time  to  time,  to  induce  him  to  leave 
Salem ;  but  his  attachment  to  his  native  place  proved  stronger 
than  any  temptation  to  which  he  was  thus  exposed.  In  1806, 
he  was  elected  Hollis  Professor  of  Mathematics  in  Harvard 
University.*     In  1818,  President   Jefferson  desired  him  to  accept 

*  By  a  singular  coincidence,  it  happened  that,  at  the  annual  commencement  of  that  year, 
he  was  seated  between  two  strangers,  one  of  whom,  reaching  forward,  observed  to  the  other 
the  fact  of  his  nomination  to  this  office,  and  asked  whether  it  would  probably  be  accepted  ; 
to  which  the  other  replied,  that  he  rather  thought  not,  since  Mr.  Bowditch  would  probably  be 
afraid  of  "  singing  small  on  classic  ground."  But  with  the  classics  of  his  own  science 
Dr.  Bowditch  was  sure  that  be  was  more  conversant  than  any  one  there,  and  his  ability  to 

MEMOIR.  79 

the  like  professorship  in  his  University  at  Charlottesville  in 
Virginia  ;  and  in  his  letter  containing-  this  request  he  says,  "  We 
are  satisfied  we  can  get  from  no  country  a  professor  of  higher 
qualifications  than  yourself  for  our  mathematical  department." 
In  the  same  year,  he  was  also  urgently  requested  to  take  charge 
of  an  insurance  office  in  Boston.  In  1820,  Mr.  Calhoun,  the 
Secretary  of  War  of  the  United  States,  requested  him  to  consent 
to  a  nomination  to  the  vacant  professorship  of  mathematics  at 
West  Point,  and  says,  "  I  am  anxious  to  avail  myself  of  the  first 
mathematical  talents  and  acquirements  to  fill  the  vacancy." 

In  1823,  he  received  an  invitation  to  take  upon  himself  the 
charge  of  an  institution  in  Boston,  —  similar  to  that  which  he 
then  managed, — jointly  with  another,  recently  incorporated  by  the 
name  of  the  Massachusetts  Hospital  Life  Insurance  Company, 
for  which  latter  institution  his  services  were  considered  almost 
indispensable.  The  salary  offered  at  first  was  exactly  three 
times  that  which  he  then  enjoyed.  After  mature  consultation 
with  his  friends,  and  after  bestowing  upon  the  proposal  his  own 
most  careful  deliberation,  it  was  also  decidedly  declined.  But 
those  who  made  it  would  admit  of  no  refusal.  A  new  offer  was 
forthwith  made  of  a  still  more  liberal  compensation,  ($5000;)  and 
as  he  felt  it  to  be  more  than  an  equivalent  for  any  services  which 
he  could  render,  —  and  as  any  further  refusal  on  his  part,  which 
should    have    led    to    the  offer    of   a  still  higher  salary,  he  would 

teach  to  others  what  he  knew  himself,  he  had  often  abundantly  tested.  He  declined  the 
appointment,  chiefly  from  an  unwillingness  to  break  away  from  all  the  pleasant  associations 
connected  with  Salem. 

80  MEMOIR. 

have  regarded  as  a  mere  extortion,  —  he  felt  that,  in  listening 
to  the  proposal,  he  was  now  obeying  a  call  of  duty,  and  he 
accordingly,  though  with  great  reluctance,  determined  to  quit 
the  town  where,  as  he  says  in  his  will,  "  he  had  passed  so 
pleasantly  the  first  fifty  years  of  his  life."  He  could,  indeed, 
hardly  determine  to  make  the  sacrifice  in  question ;  and,  even 
when  it  was  determined  upon,  a  vague  hope  and  anticipation 
were  long  cherished  both  by  himself  and  his  wife,  that  eventually 
they  should  return  and  end  their  days  amid  the  scenes  of  their 
childhood.  Until  his  death  he  continued  to  take  the  same  lively 
interest  as  ever  in  the  affairs  of  that  city. 

He  left  his  early  home  attended  with  as  cordial  and  sincere 
expressions  of  respectful  and  affectionate  regret  as  could  possibly 
have  honored  his  departure.  A  public  dinner  was  given  to  him 
upon  that  occasion,  which  will  long  be  remembered  by  those 
present  as  a  scene  of  the  most  interesting  character  ;  while  the 
recorded  account  of  the  festival  will  ever  attest  that  it  was 
a  tribute  paid  to  "  science  supported  by  genius,  guided  by 
benevolence,  and  attended  by  all  the  virtues ; "  —  to  their 
"  distinguished  citizen,  the  first  of  his  countrymen  in  the  walks 
of  science,  and  second  to  no  man  on  earth  for  purity  and  honor ; " 
—  to  "their  respected  guest,  who  reflected  upon  his  country  the 
brightest  honors  of  science,  and  diffused  in  social  life  the  warmest 
influences  of  benevolence."  And  the  wish  was  expressed,  that 
he  might  "  enjoy  a  happiness  as  pure  as  his  fame,  and  constant 
as  the  activity  of  his  virtues  ;  "  and  it  was  declared  that,  "  as  the 
monarchy  of  France  had  done  homage  to  her  La  Place,  so  would 
the  republic  of  America  not  be  ungrateful  to  her  Bowditch." 

MEMOIR.  81 

It  may  here  be  mentioned,  as  an  instance  of  Dr.  Bowditch's 
diffidence  and  aversion  to  all  public  display,  that  he  previously 
obtained  from  the  president  of  the  day  a  promise  not  to  call 
upon  him  to  address,  however  briefly,  his  assembled  friends  ;  —  an 
incident  which  probably  never  before  occurred  upon  a  like  occasion. 
It  is  also  an  interesting  circumstance,  that  that  gentleman  (Hon. 
Benjamin  Pickman)  was  the  same  individual  to  whom  he  was 
indirectly  indebted  in  early  life  for  his  copy  of  Newton's  Principia.* 

This  was  the  last  occasion  upon  which  Dr.  Bowditch  was 
personally  to  receive  from  his  native  city  any  public  expression 
of  those  sentiments  which  continued,  however,  to  be  uniformly 
cherished  and  manifested  towards  him  by  its  citizens  to  the 
close  of  his  life.  But  honorable  indeed  to  his  memory  were  the 
proceedings  of  Salem  consequent  upon  his  decease,  and  gratefully 
will  his  children  ever  cherish  the  remembrance  of  them.  The 
resolutions  then  adopted  describe  him  to  have  been  "  a  townsman 
of  singular  simplicity,  integrity,  purity,  and  benevolence  of 
character  ;  attaining  from  humble  life,  by  his  intellectual  and 
moral    energy,  the    highest    honors    of  science,    and    the    respect 

*  Dr.  Bowditch  had,  many  years  before,  been  a  member  of  an  engine  club  in  Salem,  — 
a  voluntary  association  of  gentlemen  for  securing  each  other's  property  from  the  ravages 
of  fire.  At  the  occasional  meetings  of  this  club,  of  a  social  character,  he  stipulated  that 
he  should  never  be  called  upon  for  toasts  or  sentiments,  unless  he  could  be  allowed  to 
get  them  written  and  delivered  by  proxy.  This  was  agreed  to,  and  a  friend,  of  "  infinite 
humor,"  prepared  accordingly  a  number  of  them,  of  a  most  appropriate  character,  which 
were  from  time  to  time  produced,  and  highly  applauded,  and  the  more  warmly  from  the 
above  circumstance  respecting  their  origin,  which,  though  ostensibly  concealed  with 
suitable  gravity,  was  yet  known  to  all  the  members. 
VOL.    IV.  V 

82  MEMOIR. 

and  gratitude  of  the  community  as  a  public  benefactor ; "  and 
"earnestly  commend  to  the  admiration  and  imitation  of  all., 
and  especially  of  the  young  men  of  his  native  place,  the 
noble  example  of  active  and  patient  industry,  unconquerable 
perseverance,  unbending  uprightness  and  faithfulness  in  all 
the  relations  of  life,  and  ardent  love  and  constant  pursuit  of 
knowledge  and  truth,  which  were  the  foundations  of  a  character 
of  such  honorable  distinction  and  rare  usefulness  ;  "  and  declare 
that  "  the  people  of  Salem  have  ever  retained  a  deep  interest 
in  his  happiness  and  fame  since  he  reluctantly  left  his  native 
place  for  a  sphere  of  more  extended  usefulness  ; "  and  that 
they  "  now  receive  and  acknowledge  with  grateful  sensibility  the 
evidence  of  his  generous  remembrance  of  his  first  home  in  the 
last  days  of  his  life,  contained  in  his  liberal  bequests  to  three 
of  the   most   useful  and  important   institutions   of  the   city."  * 

Thus,  in  1823,  Dr.  Bowditch  removed  to  Boston,  with  his 
wife  and  a  family  of  six  children,  —  four  sons  and  two  daughters, 
—  the  eldest  of  whom  had  not  completed  his  professional  studies, 
and  the  youngest  of  whom  was  but  an  infant.  The  remains 
of  one  interesting  child,  who  died  in  1820,  at  the  age  of  ten 
years,  and  those  also  of  an  infant  boy,  repose  in  the  burial- 
grounds    of   Salem.     All     the     anticipations     and    motives    which 

*  Pursuant  to  another  resolution,  a  public  Eulogy  was  pronounced  upon  the  deceased 
by  Hon.  Daniel  Appleton  White,  which,  listened  to  at  the  time  with  the  deepest  interest, 
will  in  its  published  form  remain  as  true,  beautiful,  and  discriminating  a  delineation  of 
character,  as  might  have  been  expected  from  one  who  himself  possesses  a  high  order 
of  talent,  who  was  long  an  intimate  personal  friend  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  and  whose  thoughts 
are  always  clothed  in  a  classic  elegance  of  style. 

MEMOIR.  83 

determined  Dr.  Bowditch  to  this  removal,  were  fully  realized 
and  justified  by  its  ultimate  results.  In  Boston  he  found  many 
of  his  early  friends,  who  had  preceded  him  in  this  removal,  and 
was  in  a  few  years  followed  by  others.  Strangers  extended  to 
him  the  hand  of  friendship,  and  gradually  became  endeared  to 
him.  He  saw  his  three  eldest  sons  engaged  in  the  professions 
or  pursuits  which  their  tastes  had  led  them  to  select,  under 
circumstances  more  advantageous  than  his  former  place  of 
residence  would  have  afforded.  His  own  increased  income 
allowed  him  to  enrich  still  more  his  valuable  library ;  and  he 
found  himself  surrounded  by  sources  of  the  purest  and  highest 
enjoyments.  In  his  will  he  speaks  of  Boston  as  "  the  home  of 
his  adoption,  where  as  a  stranger  he  met  with  welcome,  and 
had  continued  to  receive  constantly  increasing  proofs  of  kindness 
and    regard." 

The  affairs  of  the  Commercial  Insurance  Company  were 
successfully  conducted  by  him  till  the  increasing  labor  of  his  office 
as  Actuary  of  the  Life  Insurance  Company,  induced  the  latter 
institution  to  offer  him  the  same  salary  which  had  been  previously 
paid  by  both  together,  and  which  was  subsequently  still  further 
increased  to  six  thousand  dollars.  He  now  relinquished  the 
charge  of  the  other  corporation,  whose  charter  was  surrendered, 
and  its  concerns  prosperously  closed.  And  it  was  without  any 
regret  that  Dr.  Bowditch  bade  farewell  to  the  cares  and  anxieties 
attendant  upon  marine  insurance,  where  occasionally  an  unforeseen 
accident  intervenes  to  destroy  the  fairest  prospect  of  success.  The 
company  of  which  he  was  President  had  met  with  two  losses, 
of  thirty  thousand  dollars  each,  in  quick  succession  ;  and    though 

84  MEMOIR. 

one  was  a  case  of  total  destruction  by  fire,  upon  the  high  seas,  and 
the  other  a  case  of  equally  fatal  shipwreck,  and  in  each  instance 
the  vessels  lost  were  of  the  first  class,  so  that  no  error  of  judgment 
could  be  attributed  to  him,  still  the  immediate  influences  of  these 
disasters  were  disheartening ;  and  he  felt  that,  with  the  multitude, 
success,  and  that  alone,  is  wisdom,  and  that,  in  the  majority  of 
cases,  their  verdict  is  a  just  one.  He  himself,  indeed,  always 
was  of  opinion  that  continued  ill-luck  indicated  incapacity. 
On  one  occasion,  when  he  had  refused  to  underwrite  upon  a 
vessel  commanded  by  Mr.  A .... ,  because  "  he  was  unlucky," 
the  captain  called  upon  him  to  complain  of  his  imputing  to  him 
as  a  fault  what  was  but  a  misfortune  ;  and,  after  trying  for  some 
time  to  evade  a  direct  reply,  Dr.  Bowditch  at  last  said,  "  If  you 
do  not  know  that,  when  you  got  your  vessel  on  shore  on  Cape 
Cod,  in  a  moon-light  night,  with  a  fair  wind,  you  forfeited  your 
reputation  as  an  intelligent  and  careful  ship-master,  I  must  now 
tell  you   so ;    and    this    is    what   i   mean   by   being   unlucky." 

It  was  with  pleasure,  therefore,  that  he  now  turned  his 
undivided  attention  to  the  management  of  the  institution  which 
was  truly  "  the  child  of  his  affections."  The  act  incorporating 
this  company  with  a  capital  of  a  half  a  million  of  dollars, 
conferred  powers  of  effecting  insurance  upon  lives  and  granting 
annuities ;  and  Dr.  Bowditch,  before  he  had  even  removed  to 
Boston  with  his  family,  expressed  so  decidedly  the  opinion  that  the 
business  would  not  be  a  source  of  profit  with  these  limited  powers, 
that,  at  his  suggestion,  an  additional  act  was  obtained,  recognizing 
the  right  of  the  company  to  take  money  in  trust  to  manage  for 
individuals.     His   judgment    proved    perfectly    correct    upon     both 

MEMOIR.  85 

points  :  while  the  former  branch  of  business  has  been  very  trifling 
in  its  results,  the  amount  of  property  already  received  in  trust 
exceeds  five  millions  of  dollars,  and  the  charge  deducted  for  its 
management  is  the  chief,  almost  the  only,  source  of  the  profits 
of  the  company.  He  calculated  interest  tables,  for  the  common 
year  and  leap  year,  specially  designed  for  the  use  of  this 
corporation,  involving  a  great  amount  of  labor  ;  and  a  few 
copies  were  privately  printed.  These  tables  have  saved  the 
constant  employment  of  at  least  one  clerk.  The  continually 
increasing  degree  of  public  confidence  and  general  popularity 
which  this  institution  has  enjoyed,  has  been  chiefly  attributable 
to  the  financial  skill,  sound  judgment,  strict  integrity,  and  watchful 
vigilance,  with  which  he  devoted  himself  to  its  administration, 
and  the  fearless  and  decided  manner  in  which  he  always 
checked,  prevented,  and  guarded  against,  every  possible  abuse.  He 
considered  the  institution  as  being  morally  the  guardian  of  the 
property  intrusted  to  it  belonging  to  widows,  minors,  and  others, 
and  was  careful  that  they  should  fully  understand  the  contracts 
made  by  them,  or  on  their  behalf,  and  that  those  contracts,  when 
made,  should  be  observed  strictly  according  to  their  true  intent 
and  meaning.  Displaying  the  utmost  courtesy,  and  the  most 
liberal  spirit  of  accommodation  towards  other  institutions  and 
individuals  who  dealt  with  the  company,  he  had  always  in  view, 
in  its  widest  sense,  the  permanent  and  ultimate  good  of  the 
institution  over  which  he  presided,  and  never  compromised  its 
interests  or  rights.  Disarming  all  jealousy  upon  the  part  of  the 
legislature,  by  the  open  and  frank  communications  which  he  made 
to  its  committees,  he  gradually  overcame  much  of  that  prejudice 
which  a  republican  form  of  government  naturally  tends  to  foster 

VOL.    IV.  W 

86  MEMOIR. 

against  all  large  moneyed  institutions.  Identified  almost  with 
himself,  the  public,  no  less  than  the  stockholders  and  depositors, 
reposed  in  it  a  degree  of  trust,  which  has  probably  never  been 
exceeded  by  the  most  extensive  and  well-earned  popularity  of 
any  similar  institution.  In  the  settlement  of  estates  of  deceased 
persons  in  the  Probate  Office  for  the  county,  the  records  often 
speak  of  it  as  "  the  Bowditch  Office." 

Hardly  a  day  passed  which  did  not  exhibit  in  full  view  all 
his  most  peculiar  and  methodical  habits  of  business,  and  many 
of  the  most  valuable  and  important  of  the  distinguishing  traits 
of  his  character.  Instances  without  number  might  be  cited. 
One  of  the  wealthiest  citizens  of  Boston,  himself  a  member  of 
the  Board  of  Control  of  the  company,  wished,  upon  a  Saturday, 
to  deposit  ten  thousand  dollars  to  be  managed  in  trust.  His 
balance  in  the  bank,  however,  was  less  than  that  sum  by  three 
hundred  dollars,  and  he  offered  to  the  actuary  his  check  for  that 
part,  to  be  good  on  the  next  Monday.  Dr.  Bowditch  said,  "  I 
cannot,  sir,  receive  any  check  payable  at  a  future  day  as  cash. 
It  is  a  rule  of  the  office,  which  you  yourself  assisted  in  making, 
that  I  shall  never  part  with  the  money  of  the  institution,  or  make 
any  engagement  in  its  name,  without  an  actual  payment,  or 
sufficient  collateral  security  received  in  return.  It  is  my  duty 
to  enforce  this  rule  against  the  most  powerful  and  influential, 
as  well  as  the  most  humble,  individual  who  deals  with  the 
institution."  The  gentleman  was  at  first  not  a  little  astonished 
at  such  a  novelty  as  the  refusal  to  trust  him  for  three  hundred 
dollars  for  one  day.  Dr.  Bowditch  resumed,  —  "I  am  happy,  sir, 
that  it  has  become  necessary  to  enforce  this  rule  in  an  extreme 

MEMOIR.  87 

case.  Having  been  once  applied  to  yourself,  no  one  else  can  ever 
object  to  a  compliance  with  it.  And  it  is  in  itself  an  excellent 
regulation."  A  moment  afterwards,  finding  that  his  own  private 
balance  in  the  bank  was  more  than  that  sum,  he  offered  to  take 
the  gentleman's  check  himself,  giving  to  the  company  his  own 
check  payable  that  day;  which  was  done  accordingly. 

Upon  another  occasion,  a  person  called  to  take  away  a  policy 
for  which  he  had  contracted.  Dr.  Bowditch  asked  him  the  time 
of  making  it  and  the  amount ;  then  turned  in  a  moment  to  two 
books  in  succession,  went  into  the  vault  in  which  was  contained 
the  property  of  the  company,  and  looking  over  a  small  file  of 
papers  in  one  corner,  came  out  again,  and  said,  "You  have  got 
it,  sir."  —  "  No,  sir,  I  have  not."  —  "I  am  certain  you  have."  — 
"  Nothing  but  your  being  so  certain  that  I  have,  makes  me  doubt 
at  all  that  I  have  not  got  it."  —  "I  am  ready  to  take  my  oath 
in  court,  if  necessary,  that  it  has  been  delivered  to  you."  —  "  O, 
then,  you  remember,  I  suppose,  placing  it  in  my  hands."  —  "  No, 
sir,  I  have  no  particular  recollection  about  the  matter  at  all. 
But  when  a  policy  is  once  recorded  in  that  book  (pointing  to  a 
volume  before  him,)  and  has  received  the  examination  both  of 
myself  and  the  secretary,  the  original  policy  is  always  put  by 
me  in  that  corner  of  the  safe.  It  is  the  rule  of  this  office,  that 
nobody  shall  deliver  out  an  original  paper  but  myself.  I  have 
the  key  of  that  safe  ;  your  paper  is  not  there.  Therefore,  if  I 
were  called  upon  in  court,  I  could  take  my  oath  that  you  have 
received  it."       The  lost  paper  was  of  course  found. 

A    female  had   deposited  with  the  office    all    her   property,   in 

88  MEMOIR. 

strict  trust  for  her  own  life,  the  sum  being  sufficient  to  secure 
her  an  income  of  about  six  dollars  a  week.  She  subsequently 
became  insane,  and  a  guardian  was  appointed,  who  took  her  into 
his  own  family  to  reside.  He  complained  every  year  that  the 
income  was  not  enough  to  pay  the  necessary  expenses  of  taking 
care  of  her,  and  said  that  he  must  have  part  of  the  principal.  Dr. 
Bowditch  told  him  it  was  impossible ;  that  the  company  never 
would  consent  to  any  violation  or  modification  of  the  original 
contract  which  the  lady  had  made  when  in  possession  of  her 
reason ;  and  added,  "  You  can  have  her  placed  in  any  private 
institution  for  the  insane,  at  a  much  less  weekly  expense  than 
you  yourself  charge."  Finally,  one  day,  when  he  called  for 
the  annual  income  which  was  payable,  he  refused  to  receive  it 
unless  he  could  obtain  also  part  of  the  principal ;  and  added  that 
if  the  company  would  not  pay  it  voluntarily,  he  should  commence 
a  suit  to  compel  them  to  do  so.  Dr.  Bowditch,  fired  with 
indignation,  said,  "  The  moment  a  writ  is  served  upon  the 
company  for  such  an  object,  I  will  institute  a  complaint  against 
you  as  an  unfaithful  guardian,  and  get  you  removed  from  your 
trust."  From  this  time,  the  income  was  amply  sufficient  to  meet 
all  the  wishes  of  the  guardian. 

A  gentleman  wished  to  obtain  a  loan  upon  mortgage.  On 
examination,  it  appeared  that  the  former  owner  of  the  estate  had, 
before  his  purchase  of  it,  devised  all  his  property,  of  every  kind, 
to  the  lady  he  was  about  to  marry,  and,  several  years  afterwards, 
died  without  children,  leaving  her  his  widow ;  and  that  she  had 
conveyed  the  estate  in  question  to  the  applicant,  with  warranty. 
Notwithstanding    the    clear  intent  of  the  testator,  this    particular 

MEMOIR.  89 

estate  legally  belonged  not  to  his  widow,  but  to  his  brothers  and 
sisters  as  his  heirs  at  law.  The  loan  must  therefore  be  declined. 
But  the  equity  of  the  case  was  so  strong,  that,  upon  the 
applicant's  giving  such  further  security  as  was  required,  in 
addition  to  that  afforded  by  the  improvements  which  he  had 
made  upon  the  estate,  the  loan  was  at  last  agreed  to  ;  and  the 
secret  of  the  defect  of  title  thus  discovered,  was  long  preserved 
inviolate.  It  happened,  by  a  singular  coincidence,  that  the 
widow  had  died,  and  that  her  property,  including  the  proceeds 
of  this  very  estate,  had  been  placed  with  the  company  in  trust 
for  a  daughter,  who,  with  a  large  family,  was  dependent  upon 
the  income  which  it  afforded.  The  gentleman,  ascertaining 
this  fact,  and  being  impatient  of  waiting  for  the  expiration  of 
about  a  year,  when  his  title  to  the  land  would  be  rendered 
perfect  by  the  statute  of  limitations,  actually  disclosed  the 
defect  to  those  legally  entitled  to  the  estate,  feeling  sure  that, 
if  they  recovered  it  from  him,  he  should  be  able  to  obtain  his 
indemnity  from  the  property  thus  placed  in  trust  with  the 
company.  The  heirs  at  law,  as  soon  as  they  became  apprized 
of  their  rights,  brought  a  suit  to  enforce  the  legal  claim,  which 
had  originated  about  thirty-nine  years  before.  When  Dr. 
Bowditch  learned  these  circumstances,  and  found  that  the 
person  in  question,  rather  than  wait  silently  a  few  months 
longer,  had  been  willing  to  give  effect  to  this  unjust  claim, 
and  thus  indirectly  to  deprive  of  her  last  resource  this  female 
and  her  family,  he  said  to  him,  "  You  have  involved  yourself 
in  one  suit,  and  must  lose  it ;  and  never  will  I  voluntarily 
part  with  one  dollar  of  the  widow's  money  intrusted  to  me,  to 
make   good  a  loss  which  you   have  thus   brought  upon   yourself. 

VOL.   IV.  X 

90  MEMOIR. 

You  shall  first  have  still  another  suit,  against  all  the  weight  and 
influence  which  this  company  can  command."  The  gentleman 
died  during  the  pendency  of  the  original  suit,  by  which  event 
the  action  was  ended  ;  and  the  period  of  limitation  having  been 
previously  completed,  a  new  suit  could  not  be  instituted.  Nothing 
but  the  loss  of  life  could  have  prevented  his  losing  the  cause. 

A  gentleman  called  to  deposit  a  small  sum  of  money  in  behalf 
of  a  young  lady,  his  ward,  to  remain  till  she  was  of  age.  It  was 
readily  received.  Before  he  retired,  another  gentleman  entered, 
who  happened  to  be  a  very  particular  friend  of  the  actuary. 
He  said,  "  Will  you  receive  twenty  or  thirty  thousand  dollars 
in  trust  for  me  1 "  —  "  No,  I  cannot  receive  it  from  you."  — 
ft  Why  not  from  me,  as  well  as  any  one  else  ?  "  —  "  Because  you 
can  take  care  of  the  money  yourself.  Whenever,  as  at  present 
is  the  case,  there  is  so  much  money  in  possession  of  the  company, 
uninvested,  that  it  will  not  be  a  decided  advantage  for  them 
to  take  any  more,  I  receive  it  only  from  such  as  cannot  take  care 
of  it  themselves.  For  such  cases  especially  was  the  company 
designed.  It  is  a  sort  of  Savings'  Bank,  except  that  it  is  on  a 
larger  scale  than  usual." 

He  also  considered  it  very  important  that  no  money  should 
be  received  in  trust  from  foreigners  or  residents  out  of  New 
England;  both  as  a  means  of  preventing  ill-will  of  any  kind, 
and  that  the  whole  affairs  of  the  company  might  be  more 
strictly  local,  and  therefore  more  safe,  than  they  could  be  if  its 
dealings  were  more  widely  extended.  And  thus  it  once  happened, 
in  a  severe  financial  crisis,  when  it  would,  in  his  own  opinion,  have 

MEMOIR.  91 

been  advantageous  to  the  community,  in  the  particular  case,  to 
have  dispensed  with  the  rule,  that  he  yet  looked  to  ultimate 
consequences,  and  refused  a  deposit  of  one  or  more  hundred 
thousand  dollars,  which  a  resident  in  Nova  Scotia  wished  to 
place  with  the  institution. 

His  intercourse  with  the  three  individuals  associated  as 
immediate  officers  of  the  institution  under  him,  was  uniformly 
of  the  most  affectionate  character.  Requiring  at  all  times 
great  promptness  and  accuracy  from  them  in  the  discharge  of 
their  appropriate  duties,  his  kindness  of  heart  won  from  them 
all,  the  same  attachment  which  they  would  have  felt  towards  a 
parent.  These  officers  will  never  forget  that  he  summoned  them 
as  witnesses  to  his  will,  telling  them  that  before  he  died  he 
wished  to  see  them  once  more  together,  adding,  "  This  is,  probably, 
the  last  time  that  I  shall  have  that  pleasure."  It  was  the  last 
time.  One  of  them  (the  secretary)  had  been  his  colleague 
from  the  foundation  of  the  office  ;  and  there  had  existed  between 
them  a  daily  intercourse  of  the  most  friendly  character,  without 
the  slightest  interruption,  during  fifteen  years.  To  him  Dr. 
Bowditch  expressed,  on  his  death-bed,  the  earnest  wish  that  he 
would  in  no  event  desert  the  institution.  Having  been  addressed 
by  the  deceased  as  a  son,  he,  as  such,  was  one  of  the  four  individuals 
who,  besides  ourselves,  attended  his  remains  to  the  tomb.  He  will, 
we  know,  pardon  the  relation  of  the  following  anecdote  :  —  Dr. 
Bowditch  had  one  day  gone  out  of  the  office  for  a  few  moments, 
and,  on  his  return,  found  that  he  had  accidentally  left  open  the 
trunk  containing  all  the  convertible  property  of  the  company. 
The    secretary    might    have    had    access    to    it.       Without    any 

92  MEMOIR. 

remark  at  the  time,  he  took  out  the  trunk,  and  the  schedule 
of  the  property  which  ought  to  have  been  there,  and  carefully 
examined  each  item.  He  told  us  at  the  time,  and  the  secretary 
of  the  company  himself  afterwards,  that,  though  he  would  have 
unhesitatingly  left  his  own  property  uncounted,  and  have  felt 
that  there  was  not  the  slightest  risk  from  the  exposure,  he  could 
not  answer  it  to  his  conscience,  as  the  responsible  guardian  of 
the  property  of  others,  knowingly  to  subject  it  even  to  a  possibility 
of  loss. 

An  instance  may  be  mentioned  of  his  exact  and  equal  justice, 
where  a  member  of  his  own  household  was  made  its  subject. 
Several  years  ago,  it  was  the  duty  of  the  individual  then  the 
messenger  of  the  office,  to  receive  the  interest  paid  upon  notes 
and  mortgages,  and  hand  it  immediately  to  the  actuary,  that 
the  proper  endorsements  might  be  made  ;  and  if,  after  business 
hours,  persons  called  to  make  such  payments,  and  were  willing 
to  leave  the  money  with  the  messenger,  taking  his  word  that  the 
proper  endorsements  should  be  made  the  next  day,  this  officer  was 
in  the  habit  of  accommodating  them  by  so  receiving  it.  Yielding 
to  temptation,  he  spent  a  small  sum  thus  received,  ($120,) 
intending  to  replace  it  by  his  salary,  which  would  be  due  in  a 
few  days.  Dr.  Bowditch's  eldest  son,  who  then  was,  and  still  is, 
solicitor  of  the  company,  was  called  upon  to  write  certain  letters 
to  persons  supposed  to  be  delinquent  in  payment  of  interest. 
When  he  was  preparing  to  do  so,  the  messenger  of  the  company 
called,  and  with  many  tears  confessed  his  wrongful  appropriation 
of  the  money,  and  begged  that,  at  least  for  the  sake  of  his  wife  and 
children,  it    might  be   concealed   till   the  next  day,  when    he  had 

MEMOIR.  93 

always    intended    to    replace   the   sum ;    adding    the   most    solemn 
assurances   that    it    should    then    certainly    be    done.       The    son 
consented,  though  reluctantly,  to  conceal  from  the  father  an  act 
which  he  was  induced  to  believe  had  been  committed  without  any 
deliberate   intent  to  defraud.       On  the   next  morning,   the  salary 
was    paid,    and     almost    immediately    afterwards,    instead    of    the 
promised   application  of  it,   was   paid  over   by   the  messenger  to 
an  urgent  creditor,  who  threatened  him  with  the  utmost  severity 
of  the    law.       Upon    ascertaining    this   fact,   the   original    offence 
was   without  delay  disclosed   by  the  solicitor  of  the   company    to 
its  actuary.       Dr.  Bowditch's  reply  was,  "  Had  it  been  your   own 
money,   you  would  have  been  at  liberty  to  listen  to  the  dictates 
of  compassion  and  humanity  ;  but  as  an  officer  of  this  institution, 
you  have  committed,  though   unintentionally,  a  great  fault,  which 
I    can  with    difficulty    overlook.       You    must    give    me  your    own 
check    for  the    whole    amount   of  the    deficit,  since    by    a  timely 
exposure   the    company    could    have    withheld    the    salary    which 
has  just  been  paid.     This  being  done,  all  further  action  I  leave  to 
the  board  of  directors."     The  check  was  given  ;  and  this  important 
though    painful    lesson    of    duty    was    cheerfully    learned    at    the 
time,   and  has   been  as  gratefully  remembered  since  as  the  most 
kind    and    affectionate    instructions    which    a    parent's    love    ever 
communicated.       Before   this  incident,  and,   if  possible,   still  more 
scrupulously  since    that    time,  Dr.  Bowditch    determined    that  no 
one  should  remain  in  any   situation  attached    to   the   office,   who 
was  laboring  under  pecuniary  embarrassments.       To  see  the  note 
of  one  of  its  officers  offered  upon  change,  would  with  him,  at  any 
time,   have    been    a   conclusive    reason  for    his    instant    dismissal. 
He    knew    intimately    the    weakness    of     human    nature ;     that 

VOL.    IV.  V 

94  MEMOIR. 

honesty  and  integrity  may  in  a  moment  be  lost  by  those  fatal 
entanglements ;  and  he  regarded  the  prayer  for  delivery  from 
temptation  as  one  of  vital  importance.  In  his  own  conduct, 
he  practised  upon  the  same  rule.  He  never  endorsed  or  became 
surety  for  any  of  his  children,  or  made  any  engagements  by 
which  he  might  become  liable  to  forfeit  his  independence. 

In  adopting  the  forms  for  various  blanks,  and  the  books  for 
the  various  accounts  of  the  company,  Dr.  Bowditch  introduced,  at 
the  first  establishment  of  the  institution,  such  perfect  simplicity 
of  method  and  arrangement,  that  scarce  any  subsequent  change 
has  been  found  from  experience  to  be  necessary ;  the  books  having 
different  columns  ruled,  and  the  matters  stated  in  print  at  the  top 
of  each,  which  are  to  be  recorded  in  it,  so  that  a  glance  suffices 
to  decide  what  would  otherwise  require  perhaps  a  long  search. 
Dr.  Bowditch  was  very  rapid  and  exact  in  all  his  calculations, 
such  as  computing  interest,  &c,  and  each  one's  business  was  in 
succession  finished  with  the  utmost  despatch,  so  that  it  was 
wonderful  how  much  he  was  able  to  accomplish.  He  always 
bestowed  his  own  final  revision  upon  every  contract  made  by  the 
company,  and  every  note  or  mortgage  or  other  security  made  to 
or  taken  by  it ;  *  and  frequently  his  minute   and   careful   scrutiny 

*  When  a  mortgage  is  paid  off,  the  law  makes  it  the  duty  of  the  lender  to  go  to  the 
public  office  where  the  same  is  recorded,  and  to  acknowledge  satisfaction  in  the  margin 
of  the  record ;  for  making  which  entry  the  officer  is  entitled  to  a  small  fee,  which  is 
payable  by  the  borrower.  Dr.  Bowditch,  on  such  occasions,  always  took  this  fee,  and, 
wrapping  round  it  a  piece  of  paper,  on  which  were  minuted  such  particulars  of  the 
mortgage  as  would  identify  it,  and  prevent  him  from  discharging  the  wrong  one,  "This 
money,"  said  he,  "will  answer  as  ballast  for  the  paper,  and  prevent  that  from  getting 
out  of  my  pocket,  and  the  affair  out  of  my  memory." 

MEMOIR.  95 

would  detect  some  clerical  error,  which  had  escaped  all  who  had 
preceded  him.  He  was  equally  exact  and  particular  in  his  mode 
of  transacting  all  the  other  business  of  the  company.  Everyday, 
at  two  o'clock,  he  balanced  the  cash  account  before  he  closed 
the  office,  that  he  might  leave  nothing  unfinished.  Only  the  day 
before  his  death,  having  a  week  previously  found  himself  too 
feeble  to  make  an  endorsement  upon  a  promissory  note  of  half 
the  principal,  and  to  look  over  and  execute  a  deed  of  release  of 
half  the  mortgaged  premises,  he  sent  to  the  secretary  to  bring  him 
the  papers  again,  saying,  "  You  know  I  never  like  to  leave  any 
thing  unfinished."  He  made  the  endorsement,  and  executed  the 
release  in  question  only  forty-seven  hours  before  he  died.  He 
would  never  listen  to  two  speakers,  or  attempt  to  attend  to  two 
matters  at  once.  "  One  thing  at  a  time,"  was  his  rule.  It  brought 
order  out  of  chaos  ;  all  the  elements  of  confusion  vanished  at  its 
magic  influence.  It  was  certainly  the  most  efficient,  and  probably 
the  only  rule,  that  could  have  been  devised  for  finishing  all  the 
various  and  complicated  transactions  which  each  successive  day 
brought  with  it.  Often,  when  engaged  in  making  an  entry,  if, 
upon  looking  up,  he  saw  a  friend,  he  would  exclaim,  "  In  one 
moment ! "  and  then  proceed  and  deliberately  finish  the  matter 
before  him ;  after  which  he  would  say,  "  Now  I  am  free,  and  will 
talk  with  you."  He  had  his  La  Place  habitually  by  his  side,  and 
in  the  occasional  intervals  of  leisure  from  the  calls  of  business  or 
friendship,  he  constantly  recurred  with  delight  to  the  teachings 
of  this  his  favorite  author. 

Dr.  Bowditch    enjoyed    most    heartily   any  laughable    incident 
which  occurred,  and  often,  by  his  amusing  comments  or  anecdotes, 

96  MEMOIR. 

awakened  a  like  hilarity  in  others.  Thus,  upon  one  occasion,  a 
person  who  called  to  buy  a  life  annuity  moved  so  feebly,  and 
made  so  many  grimaces  and  contortions,  and  groaned  so  dolefully, 
lamenting  his  ill  health,  and  the  short  time  he  had  to  live,  that  it 
was  very  evident  he  was  acting  a  part,  with  a  view  to  make  as 
good  a  bargain  as  possible.  Dr.  Bowditch  enjoyed  the  affair 
highly,  and,  after  the  applicant  had  retired,  he  was  describing 
the  incident  to  a  friend  with  so  much  comic  effect,  "  suiting  the 
action  to  the  word,  and  the  word  to  the  action,"  that  he  even 
surpassed  his  original ;  and  the  two  officers  of  an  insurance 
company  in  the  room  immediately  beneath  his  own,  came  running 
up  stairs  with  some  anxiety  to  know  the  cause  of  such  sounds 
of  distress  and  such  piteous  ejaculations. 

It  was  indeed  wonderful  with  what  facility  Dr.  Bowditch 
could  in  an  instant  divert  his  attention  from  any  subject  to 
another  of  the  most  opposite  character ;  at  one  moment  engaged 
in  the  every-day  detail  of  the  business  of  his  office,  at  the  next 
abstracted  from  all  around  him  by  the  most  elevated  investigations 
of  science  ;  and  then,  again,  displaying  either  the  utmost  cordiality 
of  friendship,  or  almost  the  wild  hilarity  of  childhood,  and  apparently 
finding   from   each  change    an   equal   degree   of   relaxation. 

Dr.  Bowditch's  disposition  to  afford  every  possible  facility 
and  accommodation  to  annuitants,  depositors,  and  stockholders, 
was  manifested  upon  all  occasions.  He  habitually  kept  the  office 
open  during  the  afternoon  of  the  day  preceding  that  for  the 
general  payment  of  interest  or  dividends,  of  which  he  sent  a 
private   notice   to   those   individuals   who   had   the  largest  number 



of  different  sums  to  receive,  stating  his  readiness  then  to  pay 
them  ;  which  arrangement  saved  both  them  and  all  others  who 
might  have  applied  at  the  same  time  with  them  on  the  following 
day,  from  the  disagreeable  but  unavoidable  delay  to  which  they 
must  then  have  been  subjected.  This  not  only  gratified  the 
individuals  in  question,  but  was  indeed,  indirectly,  an  equal 
accommodation  to  every  one  else,  besides  that  it  insured  greater 
accuracy  than  if  the  entries  were  made  in  a  hurry,  with  many 
standing  around  waiting  impatiently  for  their  own  turn. 

He  was  also  desirous  that  females  who  had  annuities  or 
deposits  in  trust,  should  come  in  person  to  the  office  to  receive 
their  payments,  as  he  wished  them  to  see  and  judge  for  themselves 
as  to  the  management  of  their  property,  and  that  he  might  himself 
give  them  any  explanations  and  information  which  they  desired; 
and  the  moment  a  lady  entered,  she  took  immediate  precedence 
of  every  one  else,  and  the  claims  of  some  of  the  most  considerable 
depositors  have  often  been  thus  postponed  to  those  of  a  poor 
widow  who  had  intrusted  to  the  institution  her  little  all.  No 
female  annuitant,  indeed,  ever  left  the  presence  of  Dr.  Bowditch 
without  having  been  delighted  with  his  courteous  and  polite 
reception,  and  with  the  ready,  frank,  and  kind  manner  in  which 
her  inquiries  had  been  answered  or  her  wishes  attended  to. 
The  courtesy  thus  shown  to  female  annuitants  was  extended  to 
females  applying  for  loans  upon  mortgage  —  but  in  rather  a 
peculiar  way,  viz.  the  uniform  refusal  of  their  request.  And  it 
was  certainly  with  some  ingenuity  that  this  rule  of  the  company 
was  supported  exclusively  by  reasons  based  upon  gallantry  towards 
the  sex.       He  said  to  them,  "  It  is  impossible  to  accede  to  your 

VOL.   IV.  2 

98  MEMOIR. 

request,  because,  should  any  delinquency  occur,  the  company 
could  never  be  so  rude  or  harsh  as  to  institute  a  suit  against  a 
woman,  or  to  take  forcible  possession  of  her  estate.  Therefore 
we  never  lend  except  to  a  man,  with  whom  we  can  immediately 
resort  to  all  the  strict  measures  of  the  law,  in  case  it  becomes 
necessary."       So  plausible  a  reason  was  always  satisfactory. 

Prompted  by  a  similar  motive  of  politeness  was  another  of 
his  private  rules.  Aware  of  a  difficulty  which  he  through  life 
experienced  in  remembering  names,  and  that  the  self-love  of 
applicants  at  the  office  would  be  hurt  at  the  necessity  of 
informing  him  who  they  were,  he  was  in  the  habit  of  referring 
every  one  whose  familiar  features  thus  perplexed  him,  to  another 
officer  of  the  institution,  to  get  the  number  of  the  policy  or 
mortgage  respecting  which  inquiry  had  been  made.  The  clerk 
understood  this  request,  and  began  by  asking  the  name,  which 
was  a  less  mortifying  question  from  him,  than  it  would  have  been 
from  the  principal  of  the  office.  He  then  handed  the  name  and 
number  to  the  actuary  on  paper, 

The  most  difficult  duty  to  be  performed  by  the  actuary  of 
this  company,  and  at  the  same  time  one  of  almost  daily  recurrence, 
was  that  of  refusing  applications  for  loans  of  money  which  he 
thought  it  not  safe  for  the  institution  to  grant.  It  often  required 
great  firmness  and  decision.  Powerful  influences,  direct  and 
indirect,  were  often  resorted  to  in  order  to  obtain  a  favorable 
answer.  But  it  is  emphatically  true  that  Dr.  Bowditch  understood 
the  art  of  saying  "  No  ;  "  and  while  he  decidedly  and  peremptorily 
declined  an  offer  as  inadmissible,  so  that  no  time  should  be  wasted 

MEMOIR.  99 

in  profitless  discussion,  it  was  always  his  endeavor  to  do  it  with 
as  much  courtesy  of  manner  as  possible.  He  was  well  aware, 
however,  that  this  was  the  most  thankless  part  of  the  actuary's 
duties ;  that  though  a  manly,  independent,  and  decided  course, 
would  certainly  secure  the  respect  and  approbation  of  the  majority, 
and  promote  the  interests  of  the  institution,  it  must  also  necessarily 
give  offence  in  individual  cases.  Such  cases  did  occur.  There 
never  lived  the  man  whom  Dr.  Bovvditch  feared  to  address  in 
what  he  considered  the  language  of  truth,  and  he  often  spoke 
with  a  plainness  and  directness  to  which  his  hearers  had  not 
been  accustomed. 

It  was  always  a  painful  duty,  however,  to  be  compelled  to 
disappoint  applicants  by  the  refusal  of  their  requests,  though  it 
was  one  which,  as  has  been  stated,  Dr.  Bowditch  never  hesitated 
to  perform.  Sometimes,  indeed,  he  declined  requests,  which  he 
subsequently  thought  might,  with  some  slight  modification,  have 
been  admissible ;  and  in  such  cases  he  was  always  ready  and 
willing  to  recede  from  his  first  position.  An  instance  of  this  kind 
occurred  a  few  weeks  before  his  death.  The  proposal  made  by 
a  friend  was  declined,  as  not  coming  within  the  rules  of  the  office. 
The  applicant  had  no  idea  that  Dr.  Bowditch  at  that  time  was 
laboring  under  a  serious  disease,  and  manifested  some  surprise 
and  irritation  at  this  unfavorable  answer.  With  a  slight  change 
in  the  terms  of  the  proposal,  by  which  the  original  objection 
was  removed,  it  was,  in  a  day  or  two  afterwards,  acceded  to.  It 
was  soon  known  that  Dr.  Bowditch  was  alarmingly  ill.  No  one 
was  more  earnest  and  constant  in  his  inquiries  respecting  his 
health,  than  the  gentleman  alluded  to.      The  day  but  one  before 

100  MEMOIR. 

his  death,  Dr.  Bowditch  made  some  remarks  to  his  eldest  son, 
desirino-  him  to  communicate  them  in  his  name  to  that  gentleman. 
A  letter  was  accordingly  written,  in  which,  after  stating  his 
uniform  sentiments  of  esteem  and  respect  during  a  long  inter- 
course, and  alluding  to  a  common  descent  from  the  same  remote 
ancestor,  (John  Turner,)  as  having  strengthened  by  relationship 
the  feelings  of  good-will  which  a  knowledge  of  character  had 
first  produced,  —  Dr.  Bowditch  proceeds  to  say  that  if  any 
incident  has  ever  occurred  between  them  of  a  less  friendly 
description,  he  has  never  let  the  sun  go  down  upon  his 
remembrance  of  it,  and  hopes  that  it  has  been  equally  forgotten 
by  his  friend.  A  reply  was  received,  in  which  the  writer  says,  "  I 
have  ever  been  inclined  to  reverence  the  silver  hairs  of  an  honest 
man.  Associated  with  the  consideration  that  they  arc  connected 
with  great  public  services,  inflexible  independence  of  thought 
and  action,  and  a  very  high  order  of  intelligence,  duty,  not  less 
than  inclination,  commands  our  respect."  A  copy  of  the  original 
communication,  sent  by  his  son,  as  he  had  desired,  and  the  reply 
to  it,  were  read  to  Dr.  Bowditch  only  twenty-three  hours  before 
his  death.  They  were  the  last  to  which  he  ever  was  a  listener. 
He  died,  as  it  were,  in  the  very  act  of  forgetting  and  forgiving, 
and  asking  a  like  forgetfulness  and  forgiveness  of,  all  the  incidents 
connected  with  one  occasion  upon  which  he  feared  that,  as  actuary 
of  the  Life  Insurance  Company,  he  had  perhaps  unnecessarily 
said  "  No."  * 

*  Of  a  similar  character  is  the  anecdote  of  his  once  asking  the  pardon  of  some  young 
men  in  the  Salem  Athenaeum  for  having  upon  a  certain  occasion  spoken,  as  he  thought, 
somewhat  too  quickly  to  them.  —  Judge   White's  Eulogy,  p.  57. 

MEMOIR.  101 

During-  the  late  disastrous  period,  when  every  bank  in  the  United 
States  was  compelled  to  suspend  specie  payments,  Dr.  Bowditch 
conducted  the  affairs  of  the  Company  with  such  caution,  that  — 
though  this  was  the  largest  moneyed  institution  in  New  England, 
having  a  capital  equal  to  that  often  common  banks,  and  though  its 
dealings  were  necessarily  extended  throughout  the  community  — 
the  actual  loss  sustained  by  the  reckless  management  of  other 
institutions,  and  by  the  numerous  bankruptcies  which  destroyed 
all  commercial  confidence,  was  less  than  that  of  any  one  bank 
in  the  city,  and  was  more  than  balanced  by  the  reserved  profits 
resulting  from  the  success  of  a  financial  measure  which  he  had 
previously  suggested  and  executed. 

Such  teas  Dr.  Bowditch,  the  Actuary  of  the  Massachusetts 
Hospital  Life  Insurance  Company.  He  had  qualifications  rarely, 
if  ever,  found  united  in  one  individual,  and  they  had  here  their 
happiest  and  fullest  exercise,  and  accomplished  a  most  useful 
result.  Not  inferior  to  his  fame  throughout  the  scientific  world 
as  the  author  of  this  work,  will  be  the  reputation  which  he  has 
left  among  all  connected  with  that  institution,  as  one  who,  (in 
the  language  of  the  Board  of  Control  in  one  of  their  resolutions 
adopted  after  his  decease,)  »  by  the  clearness  and  simplicity  of 
the  regulations  he  devised  and  adopted,  and  the  intelligence, 
fidelity,  and  inflexible  resolution  with  which  they  were  adhered 
to  and  executed,  has  preeminently  contributed  to  the  present 
stability  and  prosperity  of  the  institution."  In  another  of  these 
resolutions  they  describe  him  as  "one  who  lived  long  enough  to 
perform  all  the  duties  of  a  long  life,  although  not  permitted  to 
attain    old    age  ;    who    has    left    to    his    family  a  bright    example, 

vol.  iv.  a  a 

102  MEMOIR. 

and  a  name  that  will  be  known  and  honored  throughout  the  world 
so  long-  as  virtue  and  science  shall  be  held  in  reverence." 

It  is  gratifying-  to  us  to  reflect  that  the  institution  whose 
continued  prosperity  was  almost  the  last  earthly  wish  of  Dr. 
Bowditch,  has  been  intrusted  to  the  hands  of  one  whom,  of  all 
others,  he  would  have  himself  selected  to  be  his  successor  ;  under 
whose  auspices  we  doubt  not  that  it  will  long  possess,  as  heretofore, 
the  unlimited  confidence  of  its  friends  and  of  the  community. 

Dr.  Bowditch  was,  from  1826  to  the  end  of  1833,  a  Trustee 
of  the  Boston  Athenaeum.  At  the  time  of  his  appointment,  it 
was  in  a  situation  far  from  prosperous.  One  whose  name  has 
ever  stood  foremost  upon  the  list  of  public  benefactors  in  this 
city,  generously  offered  to  the  institution  eight  thousand  dollars, 
if  a  like  sum  in  addition  could  be  obtained.  Dr.  Bowditch,  with 
the  assistance  of  a  friend  equally  zealous  in  the  cause,  undertook 
the  task  of  procuring  the  performance  of  this  condition.  They 
first  waited  upon  a  nephew  of  the  original  donor,  who,  upon  the 
circumstances  being  stated  to  him,  immediately  said,  "  I  will 
follow  the  example  of  my  uncle,  and  give  the  same  sum,  provided 
you  can  get  from  others  sixteen  thousand  dollars."  This  brilliant 
success  in  the  outset,  in  reality,  as  he  perceived  by  the  condition 
thus  annexed,  doubled  his  future  labors.  But  he  saw  in  it  only 
an  opportunity  of  urging  more  strongly  upon  others  a  like 
munificence,  as  the  withholding  of  each  small  sum  might  endanger 
the  loss  of  the  whole  promised  bounty.  His  efforts,  therefore, 
were  unremitting.  With  that  persuasive  eloquence  which  is 
always  inspired  by  disinterested  zeal  in  a  good  cause,  and  which 

MEMOIR.  103 

few  could  resist  from  his  lips,  he  appealed  so  forcibly  to  those  he 
addressed,  that  he  obtained  much  more  than  the  requisite  sum. 
One  great  object  to  which  the  funds  thus  gained  for  the  institution 
were  applied,  was  that  of  perfecting  its  collection  of  works  of 
science  ;  and  here  his  labors  were  no  less  useful  than  they  had 
been  before.  He  had  previously  accomplished  one  measure,  far 
more  important  in  his  view  than  any  other,  and  without  which 
he  felt  that  any  future  labors  would  be  of  but  little  advantage,  — 
namely,  that  of  permitting  subscribers  to  take  books  from  the 
library  for  the  use  of  themselves  and  their  families.  The  benefit 
of  a  like  arrangement  he  had  long  experienced  while  connected 
with  the  Athenaeum  in  Salem.  This  was  at  first  vehemently 
opposed  by  some  of  the  most  intelligent  of  his  associates,  who 
apprehended  from  this  plan  evil  consequences,  which  have  been 
proved  by  experience  not  to  result  from  it.  There  can  be  no 
doubt,  indeed,  that  the  final  attainment  of  this  his  favorite  object 
has  been  of  great  benefit  to  the  citizens  of  Boston, 

These  services  were  remembered  so  gratefully  by  this  insti- 
tution, that,  on  his  decease,  its  trustees  felt  themselves  called 
upon  publicly  to  declare  their  nature  and  extent,  in  order  that 
the  community  might  duly  appreciate  its  obligations  to  him. 
Death  had  removed  the  necessity  of  that  silence  which  was 
more  grateful  to  the  modesty  of  the  living,  than  would  have 
been  even  that  just  and  appropriate  eulogy,  which,  after 
alluding  to  his  particular  services  above  mentioned,  proceeds 
thus  :  —  "  But  Dr.  Bowditch  has  far  higher  claims  to  notice  ; 
he  stood  at  the  head  of  the  scientific  men  of  this  country,  and 
no  man    living  has   contributed  more  to  his  country's   reputation. 

104  MEMOIR. 

His  fame  is  of  the  most  durable  kind,  resting  on  the  union  of  the 
highest  genius  with  the  most  practical  talent,  and  the  application 
of  both  to  the  good  of  his  fellow-men.  Every  American  ship 
crosses  the  ocean  more  safely  for  his  labors,  and  the  most  eminent 
mathematicians  of  Europe  have  acknowledged  him  their  equal  in 
the  highest  walks  of  their  science.  His  last  great  work  ranks 
with  the  noblest  productions  of  our  age."  —  "  But  it  is  not 
merely  the  benefactor  of  this  institution,  and  the  illustrious 
mathematician,  whose  labors  have  given  safety  to  commerce 
and  reputation  to  his  country,  whom  we  lament.  It  is  one 
whose  whole  life  was  directed  to  good  ends  ;  who  combined  the 
greatest  energy  with  the  kindest  feelings  ;  who  was  the  friend  of 
every  good  man  and  every  good  undertaking ;  the  enemy  of 
oppression,  the  patron  of  merit,  the  warm-hearted  champion 
of  truth  and  virtue.  It  is  the  companion,  whose  simple  manners 
and  amiable  disposition  put  every  one  at  ease  in  his  presence, 
notwithstanding  the  respect  which  his  genius  inspired  ;  and  who 
could  turn,  apparently  without  effort,  from  the  profoundest 
investigations,  to  take  his  part,  with  the  light-heartedness  of  a 
child,  in  the  mirth  of  the  social  circle.  His  heart  was  as  tender  as 
his  intellect  was  powerful.  His  family  found  him  as  affectionate 
as  he  was  wise ;  he  was  equally  their  delight  and  their  pride. 
They  could  have  no  richer  inheritance  than  his  character ;  and 
nothing  but  such  a  character  could  afford  them  consolation  for 
such  a  loss."  And  for  this  consolation  they  refer  us,  in  their 
concluding  resolution,  to  "  the  contemplation  of  a  life  so  gloriously 
spent,  and  which  has  left  such  enduring  monuments  of  excellence 
in  every  department,  whether  of  science  or  of  practical  utility,  to 
wliicli   it  has  been  devoted." 

MEMOIR.  105 

A  marble  bust  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  executed  some  years  since 
by  John  Frazee,  of  New  York,  was  presented  to  this  institution 
by  the  gentlemen  at  whose  request  it  was  taken.  Though  it 
accurately  represents  the  features,  the  artist  has  not  succeeded 
in  arresting  that  bright  and  cheerful  expression  of  the  deceased, 
which  his  children  will  ever  most  delight  to  recall. 

Under   his   auspices  as    President    of  the    American  Academy, 
one  volume  of  its    Transactions*  has    been  published.       He  also 
procured    an  important   modification   of   the  terms   upon   which    a 
donation  had  been  made  to  that  body  by  Count  Rumford ;  so  that, 
from   being  wholly  worthless,  it  has   been   rendered   available   for 
the  general  objects  of  the  society.     He  obtained  the  hall  over  the 
Life  Insurance   Company's   office    for  the  use   of  this    institution, 
where  its  excellent  collection  of  books  was  neatly  and  elegantly 
arranged    under    his    direction.         His     youngest    son,    who    had 
succeeded  in  making  a  fine  catalogue  of  his  own  library,  he  had 
requested   at   his   leisure   hours   to  prepare   one  likewise  for  this ; 
which  labor  has  been   nearly  completed  since   his  decease.      An 
artist    has,  at  the   request  of  the   Academy,  recently  executed  a 
marble  bust  of  their   late   president,  in  whose  death  they  lament 
the  loss  of  "  their  distinguished  associate  and  head,  whose  name 

*  This  is  called  Vol.  I.  of  a  New  Series,  to  avoid  the  necessity  of  sending  to 
foreign  members  of  the  Academy  copies  of  all  the  earlier  volumes ;  as  he  considered  that 
Vol.  I.  of  the  Old  Series  contains  some  mathematical  papers  of  so  inferior  a  character,  as 
to  indicate  a  low  state  of  that  science  in  this  country  at  the  time  of  its  publication.  It 
may  be  observed  that,  by  this  arrangement,  he  was  obliged  also  to  consign  to  the  like  obscurity 
all  his  own  communications,  as  they  are  recorded  in  the  subsequent  volumes  of  the  Old 

vol.  iv.  b  b 

106  MEMOIR. 

has  for  many  years  conferred  honor  upon  their  institution,  and 
whose  communications  are  among  the  most  valuable  contents 
of  the  volumes  of  their  Memoirs ;  "  —  "of  a  friend  and  fellow- 
citizen,  whose  services  were  of  the  highest  value  in  the  active 
walks  of  life,  whose  entire  influence  was  given  to  the  cause  of 
good  principles,  whose  life  was  a  uniform  exhibition  of  the  loftiest 
virtues,  and  who,  with  a  firmness  and  energy  which  nothing 
could  shake  or  subdue,  devoted  himself  to  the  most  arduous  and 
important  duties,  and  made  the  profoundest  researches  of  science 
subservient  to  the  practical  business  of  life."  * 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  accustomed  to  say,  after  his  appointment 
to  a  seat  in  the  Corporation  of  Harvard  College,  that  his  two 
high  holidays  were  those  occasioned  by  the  literary  exercises 
and  festivities  of  the  annual  Commencements  of  that  institution. 
On  these  days  he  might  always  be  seen  listening  with  interest 
and  attention  to  the  various  performances. 

Though  not  himself  a  practical  mechanic,  there  was  no  class 
in  the  community  whom  he  more  valued  and  respected.  Many 
intelligent  mechanics  will  remember  the  familiar  and  friendly 
manner    in    which    Dr.    Bowditch    has    often    joined     them    when 

*  Tl»3  Eulogy  pronounced,  pursuant  to  another  resolution  of  the  Academy,  by  John 
Pickering,  Esq.,  one  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  earliest  and  most  intimate  friends,  has  been  before 
referred  to.  Il  presents  to  the  reader,  with  the  utmost  fidelity  and  accuracy,  and  with 
great  thoroughness  of  research,  an  analysis  and  estimate  of  the  scientific  labors  and  services 
of  the  deceased,  to  which  we  with  pleasure  acknowledge  our  own  obligations  in  preparing 
the  present  memoir. 

MEMOIR.  107 

walking,  and  continued  to  walk  with  them  arm  in  arm.  Living 
in  a  republic,  he  respected  in  others,  and  aspired  himself  to  no 
aristocracy,  but  that  of  character  and  talents  —  that  which  results 
from  useful  and  honorable  labors  either  of  the  hands  or  of  the 
head.  No  sight  ever  afforded  him  such  pleasure  as  that  of  the 
working  classes  of  the  city,  upon  one  day  in  seven,  dressed  in 
their  Sunday  clothes,  and  forgetting  the  laborious  occupations 
of  the  week,  enjoying  with  their  wives  and  children  the  pure  air 
and  beautiful  scenery  of  the  Boston  Common. 

The  Boston  Mechanics'  Institution  considered  him  justly  enti- 
tled to  the  honor  of  being  elected  its  President,  even  though  his 
manual  dexterity  in  any  particular  craft  might  be  doubtful.  He 
received  this  appointment  January  12,  1827,  and  resigned  the 
office  April  27,  1829."  A  valuable  apparatus  was  purchased  by 
subscription,  which  he  promoted  by  his  influence  and  example  ; 
and  lectures  upon  the  steam  engine,  and  other  similar  important 
subjects,  were  delivered  with  much  success.  And  it  is  believed 
that  all  the  lectures  now  delivered  so  generally  before  various 
institutions  in  Boston,  upon  almost  every  evening  in  the  week,  and 
by  which  so  much  valuable  information  is  diffused  through  the 
community,  find  almost  their  first  precedent  in  this  country  in 
the  course  given  by  the  mechanics  of  Boston,  with  Dr.  Bowditch 
at  their  head. 

By  the  same  body  of  men  Dr.  Bowditch  was  placed  on  the 
select  list  of  honorary  members  of  the  Massachusetts  Charitable 

*  He  was  chosen  first  honorary  merrfber  of  this  society,  May   15,  1829. 

108  MEMOIR. 

Mechanic  Association,  (February  4,  1828  ;)  while  those  whom  he 
through  life  had  most  benefited  were  proud  to  own  him  as 
one  of  their  profession,  and  elected  him  a  member  of  the  Boston 
Marine  Society,  (March  2,  1830.)  The  latter  society,  upon  his 
death,  say,  "  '  He  hath  wrought  a  good  work,  and  rests  from  his 
labors.'  His  intuitive  mind  sought  and  amassed  knowledge,  to 
impart  it  to  the  world  in  more  easy  and  comprehensive  forms. 
His  life  and  example,  in  all  their  phases,  present  more  to  admire 
and  approve  than  we  may  hope  to  see  imitated  and  achieved  by 
another  individual."  Both  these  societies,  receiving  unitedly  in 
his  will  the  same  affectionate  and  honorable  mention,  unitedly 
listened  to  the  Discourse  which  the  Rev.  Alexander  Young  had 
previously  delivered  before  his  parishioners,*  in  the  church  where 
the  deceased  had  worshipped. 

Thus  various  and  important  were  the  public  relations  which 
Dr.  Bowditch  sustained  in  the  community  around  him,  and  thus 

*  The  first  in  the  series  of  the  publications  of  this  class  in  point  of  time,  it  details  very  fully 
the  incidents  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  life,  and  especially  those  illustrating  his  personal  and  social 
habits  and  character.  Some  slight  errors  in  this  Discourse,  chiefly  respecting  the  time  when, 
and  the  circumstances  under  which  Dr.  Bowditch  gained  particular  acquirements,  a  subsequent 
investigation  has  enabled  others  to  correct ;  but  the  substantial  accuracy  and  fidelity  of  those 
moral  delineations,  which  it  was  his  peculiar  province  and  design  to  present,  will  ever  remain 
unimpeached.  On  the  afternoon  of  the  day  when  it  was  delivered  in  Boston,  it  was  repeated 
at  the  church  of  the  late  Dr.  Prince  in  Salem.  Of  its  delivery  upon  this  latter  occasion,  it  is 
recorded  that  "  in  that  compacted  audience,  there  were  several  present  who  had  witnessed 
the  whole  career  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  from  earliest  childhood  to  the  lofty  summit  of  his  usefulness 
and  fame  ;  and  among  others,  Captain  Henry  Prince,  under  whose  command  he  had  performed 
his  four  first  voyages ;  "  —  and  it  is  added  that  "  it  was  a  striking  evidence  of  the  sincere  and 
deep  sympathy  of  the  audience   in  the  commendations  bestowed  by   the  preacher  upon  the 

MEMOIR.  109 

uniform  and  unqualified  is  the  testimony  given  respecting  the 
value  of  his  diversified  labors  and  services.  Beautifully  has  one 
of  his  eulogists*  said,  "The  world  has  been  the  wiser  and  the 
happier  that  he  has  lived  in  it."  And  his  death  was  announced 
in  one  of  the  public  journals,!  with  but  the  following  brief 
comment :  "  A  star  has  fallen."  Connected  with  so  many 
different  classes  of  society,  he  seemed,  as  he  walked  through  the 
streets,  constantly  to  meet  an  acquaintance  or  a  friend.  None 
were  so  high  that  they  did  not  feel  themselves  honored  by  his 
notice,  and  none  so  humble  as  to  be  beneath  it.  The  little  child 
on  its  way  to  school,  whose  sweet  or  intelligent  countenance 
happened  to  attract  his  attention,  he  often  arrested  by  some 
kind  inquiry,  and  detained  by  a  dialogue  which  ended  in  a  kiss, 
or  some  other  act  of  endearment ;  and  virtuous  age  ever  received 
his  reverence.  The  Chief  Magistrate  of  the  Commonwealth, 
with  friendly  sympathy,  was  present  at  those  simple  funeral  rites 
by  which  we  felt  that  the  deceased  would  be  most  appropriately 
honored ;  and  one  in  humble  life,  who  was  to  us  a  stranger, 
asked  permission  to  take  a  last  look  at  his  lifeless  remains, 
"because  he  had  known  Dr.  Bowditch  and  loved  him." 

character  and  merits  of  the  departed,  that,  after  the  discourse  was  finished,  though  large 
numbers  of  them  had  been  standing  for  three  hours,  they  continued  in  the  church  to  listen  to 
the  dirge  commencing  with  the  unrivalled  lines,  — 

'Unveil  thy  bosom,  faithful  tomb; 

Take  this  new  treasure  to  thy  trust, 
And  give  these  sacred  relics  room 
To  slumber  in  thy  silent  dust.'" 

*  Mr-  Young.  f  National  Intelligencer,  March  21,  1838. 

VOL.    IV.  C  C 

110  MEMOIR. 

But  for  his  residence  in  Boston,  Dr.  Bowditch  would  never 
have  possessed  the  means  of  publishing-  this  work  at  his  own 
expense  ;  and  notwithstanding  all  his  daily  duties  and  occasional 
labors  above  described,  during  his  residence  here,  and  the 
performance  of  multiplied  good  offices  to  individuals  as  before, 
and  by  which,  in  the  aggregate,  almost  as  much  service  was 
rendered  to  society  as  by  his  more  public  efforts,  —  he  also  found 
the  leisure  which  he  needed  for  this  the  last  great  undertaking 
of  his  life.*  The  estimated  cost  of  publishing  the  five  volumes 
exceeded  twelve  thousand  dollars,  and  was  equal  to  one  third 
of  all  his  property  at  that  time.  To  this  undertaking,  involving 
so  much  expense  and  labor,  he  was  strongly  urged  by  his  wife, 
who  assured  him  of  her  willingness  to  make  any  sacrifice  which 

*  The  first  volume  was  published  in  the  year  1829,  the  second  in  1S32,  and  the  third 
in  1834.  These  three  volumes  were  from  the  press  of  Isaac  R.  Butts.  The  fourth  volume, 
from  page  634,  has  been  stereotyped  at  the  Boston  Type  and  Stereotype  Foundry.  If  Dr. 
Bowditch  had  lived,  he  would  probably  have  stereotyped  all  the  others.  Connected  with  the 
publication  of  this  work,  may  be  mentioned  two  anecdotes  exhibiting  a  trait  of  character  in 
the  translator  which  has  been  before  alluded  to.  Robert  W.  Macnair,  whose  name  is  affixed 
to  the  second  volume  as  a  compositor,  was  one  with  whose  accuracy,  neatness,  and  assiduity, 
Dr.  Bowditch  was  always  much  pleased  ;  and  he  was  gratified  to  find  that  he  felt  such  a 
pride  in  the  appearance  of  the  volume,  as  the  result,  in  part,  of  his  own  manual  dexterity, 
that  he  wished  the  fact  of  his  agency  in  preparing  it  to  be  thus  always  known.  Dr. 
Bowditch,  on  learning  his  death,  (which  took  place  after  a  short  illness,  February  27,  1833,) 
expressed  to  his  widow  his  sympathy  for  her  loss,  and,  notwithstanding  her  husband  had 
been  employed  and  paid  by  another,  gave  her  at  parting  the  sum  of  fifty  dollars,  as  an 
acknowledgment  of  the  zeal  and  fidelity  which  had  been  shown  in  his  service.  And 
during  his  own  last  illness,  lie  told  his  children  that  with  the  printers  and  publishers  of  this 
work  he  wished  them  "  to  deal  liberally."  And  when,  after  his  death,  this  circumstance 
was  communicated  to  them,  they  said,  "  It  is  like  him ;  he  always  acted  so  towards  us 
while  living." 


it  might  render  necessary.*  She  knew  that,  in  the  event  of  his 
death,  he  had  made  her  his  sole  legatee.  But,  like  himself,  she 
valued  money  only  as  a  means  of  attaining  desirable  ends.  And 
to  what  more  noble  or  worthy  purpose  could  it  possibly  be  applied  ? 
She  did  not  live  to  see  the  publication  completed,  though  she  found 
the  reward  of  her  advice,  in  those  high  terms  of  commendation 
with  which  each  successive  volume  was  mentioned  by  the  most 
eminent  scientific  men  of  the  age,  in  this  and  in  foreign  countries, 
and  in  the  great  and  constantly  increasing  reputation  which  was 
thus  gained  by  her  husband.  The  letters  of  this  description, 
already,  in  part,  laid  before  the  reader,  the  wife  listened  to  as  to 
the  sweetest  music,  for  they  contained  the  praises  of  one  dearer 
to  her  than  herself.  And  so  deep  was  Dr.  Bowditch's  conviction 
that,  but  for  her  disinterested  advice  and  urgent  solicitation,  the 
publication  would  never  have  been  commenced,  that  he  prepared  a 
dedication  of  the  work  to  her  memory.  This  document,  in  his 
own  hand-writing,  manifesting,  as  it  does  throughout,  a  deep 
feeling  of  affection,  he  had  always  preserved  ;  and,  during  his  last 
illness,  he  gave  to  it  the  sanction  of  a  love  stronger  even  than 
death,  by  enjoining  on  his  children  as  his  last  wish,  that  they 
should  prefix  it  to  this  the  posthumous  volume  of  his  work,  and 
thus  pay  a  public  tribute  of  respect  to  the  memory  of  their  mother. 
Willingly  do  we  perform  this  sacred  duty.  It  is  indeed  fitting 
that  they  who  in  life  were  inseparably  connected,  no  less  by  the 
bonds  of  an  earthly  marriage,  than  by  the  more  intimate  union  of 
mind  and   heart,  should   forever  remain  associated  in  the  memory 

*  The  publication  was  indeed  decided  upon  in  a  family  conclave,  in  which  there  was 
no  dissenting  voice. 

112  MEMOIR. 

of  every  reader  of  this  work,  as  those  to  whom  he  is  jointly  and 
alike  indebted  for  any  pleasure  or  profit  which  he  may  have 
derived  from  its  perusal. 

As  early  as  1826,  Dr.  Bowditch  first  perceived  in  his  wife  the 
symptoms  of  that  fatal  disease  which  had  deprived  him  of  two 
sisters,  and  which,  after  the  lapse  of  eight  years,  was  to  remove 
from  him  a  still  nearer  friend.  At  intervals  during  this  period, 
his  wife  enjoyed  her  usual  health,  and  her  accustomed  cheerfulness 
never  deserted  her.  She  gradually  became  more  and  more  feeble. 
Aware  of  her  situation,  and  resigned  to  it,  no  one  except  her 
confidential  medical  adviser  heard  from  her  lips  those  convictions 
of  her  approaching  end,  which  she  knew,  if  expressed  to  them, 
would  send  sadness  to  the  hearts  of  her  husband  and  children. 
They  were  not,  however,  deceived.  When,  a  few  days  before 
her  death,  she  was  borne  in  a  chair  by  two  of  her  sons  into  that 
library  where  she  ever  delighted  to  sit,  it  was  only  her  pale 
countenance  and  debilitated  frame  which  told  us  —  and  they  did, 
alas  !  tell  us  but  too  truly  —  that  soon  one  seat  would  be  vacant, 
and  one  voice  silent,  in  that  assembled  household.  The  blow, 
however,  fell  suddenly  and  heavily  at  last.  We  were  awakened 
at  midnight,  and  told  that  the  fatal  hour  had  come.  To  him  who 
first  reached  her  apartment  she  extended  her  hand,  and,  giving 
to  his  a  gentle  pressure,  —  a  proof  of  consciousness  and  of  love,  — 
she  murmured  a  few  words  so  feebly  that  they  did  not  reach  his  ear, 
but  they  were  distinctly  heard  by  her  attendant  :  "  My  dear,  you 
have  come  to  bid  me  farewell."  She  died  also  in  the  presence 
of  her  eldest  children.  The  unbroken  slumbers  of  the  youngest 
left   them,   for    a   few  hours  longer,  happily  unconscious    of   their 

MEMOIR.  113 

loss;  and  one  was  destined  to  learn  the  event  in  a  distant  land, 
who  therefore  had  not  a  personal  knowledge  of  those  consoling 
circumstances  which  a  brother's  pen  could  at  best  but  inadequately 
describe.  It  was  truly,  as  the  historian  of  America"  has  said, 
when  speaking  of  a  similar  death-bed,  "  too  serene  for  sorrow, 
too  beautiful  for  fear."  The  wish  which  she  had  often  expressed 
had  been  granted.  She  died  before  her  husband,  April  17,  1834, 
and  was  followed  to  the  tomb  only  by  those  few  whose  home  had 
ever  been  gladdened  by  her  presence.! 

Dr.  Bowditch  bore  this  heavy  calamity  as  a  Philosopher  and 
a  Christian.  The  early  morning  witnessed  the  funeral  obse- 
quies which  he  attended  ;  and  that  forenoon  saw  the  Actuary  of 
the  Life  Insurance  Company  engaged  in  his  usual  routine  of 
business,  and  at  intervals  examining  the  proof-sheets  of  this 
work,  upon  whose  progress  he  was  never  more  to  look  with 
a  pleasure  heightened  by  her  participation;  and  the  kindly 
ministrations  of  time  were  aided  by  this  cheerful  discharge  of 
duty,  and  by  this  devoted  pursuit  of  science,  till  he  was  himself 
summoned  to  receive  the  glorious  rewards  of  eternity.  To  the 
stranger  he  appeared  as  he  had  ever  done  before.  To  his  friends 
and  family  his  character  displayed  a  strength  and  grandeur  never 
until     then    fully    appreciated.       Most    deeply,    however,    did    Dr. 

*  George  Bancroft.      See  his  History  of  the  United  States,  Vol.  I.  p.  3S8. 

t  Trinity  Church,  in  Boston,  was  rebuilt  after  Dr.  Bowditch  removed  to  this  city  ;  and 
he  became  proprietor  of  one  of  the  new  tombs  constructed  beneath  it.  On  the  day  of  his 
wife's  funeral,  he  executed  an  instrument  transferring  this  tomb  to  his  four  sons  in  trust,  as 
the  future  burial-place  of  himself  and  his  descendants.  That  trust  has  already  been  fulfilled 
towards  himself,  and  also  towards  a  granddaughter,  born  subsequently  to  his  death. 
vol.  iv.  d  d 


Bowditch  feel  this  loss  ;  and  sometimes,  particularly  during  his 
own  last  illness,  he  alluded  to  it  with  much  sensibility.  His 
countenance,  after  her  death,  exhibited,  more  frequently  than 
before,  a  degree  of  thoughtfulness  sometimes  amounting  almost 
to  sadness.  Indeed,  he  frequently  stated  to  his  children,  though 
the  fact  may  not  have  been  apparent  to  the  public,  or  even  to  his 
friends,  that  though  life  had  still  many  charms  for  him,  it  had  lost 
forever  what  he  had  always  regarded  as  its  brightest  attraction. 
And  we  felt  that  this  event  had  devolved  upon  us  additional  duties 
of  filial  tenderness  and  regard  towards  him  who  had  been  so 
severely  bereft. 

The  various  other  incidents  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  life,  during  his 
residence  in  Boston,  which  led  to  the  display  of  his  peculiar 
talents  and  virtues,  were  few  of  them  so  conspicuous  and 
remarkable  as  to  be  especially  deserving  of  selection,  though 
scarce  one  can  be  mentioned  which  would  not  add  greater 
clearness  to  the  reader's  previous  impressions.  He  one  day 
fearlessly  seized  a  carman  Avho  was  cruelly  beating  a  horse,  and 
obliged  him  to  desist  by  the  mere  alarm  which  his  vehement  and 
indignant  manner  inspired,  though  in  bodily  strength  wholly  his 
inferior.  When  Lafayette  visited  this  country,  Dr.  Bowditch 
found  himself,  he  hardly  knew  how,  in  the  street  near  his  chariot 
wheels ;  and  amid  the  acclamations  of  the  multitude,  he  too 
waved  his  hat  and  joined  his  voice  to  the  praises  of  a  virtuous 
and  honorable  life,  which  were  then  spontaneously  rising  from 
countless  numbers  of  grateful  citizens. 

When    a   Roman   Catholic   school,   in   the    adjoining    town    of 


Charlestown,  occupied  by  defenceless  females,*  was  attacked  at 
night,  and  its  frightened  inmates  dispersed  by  the  imprecations 
and  torches  of  a  band  of  deluded  fanatics,  he  felt  indeed  that 
the  fair  fame  of  the  state  had  received  a  deep,  if  not  an  indelible 
stain,  and  that  the  same  town  which  is  memorable  as  the  scene 
of  the  first  of  freedom's  battles  in  modern  times,  would  also 
exhibit  a  monument  of  the  most  ruthless  violation  of  private 
rights.  He  most  openly  expressed  his  abhorrence  of  this  act, 
and  calling  upon  the  Bishop,  whose  church  and  residence  almost 
adjoined  his  own,  said  to  him,  "  Though  our  forms  of  worship 
are  the  most  opposite  and  widely  separated  of  all  the  creeds  by 
which  the  Christian  church  has  ever  been  divided,  upon  this 
ground  I  make  common  cause  with  you.  This  act  has  awakened 
me  from  a  pleasant  dream  of  security,  and  shown  to  me  that  the 
fanaticism  of  one  class  of  this  our  orderly  community,  if  it  had 
the  power,  would  not  want  the  will,  to  attack  with  fire  and  sword 
all  those  whose  peculiar  modes  of  faith  or  religious  institutions 
should  happen  to  excite  suspicion  or  incur  hatred."  And  he 
at  the  same  time  gave  him  a  small  sum  toward  the  immediate 
relief  of  those  whom  the  flames  had  deprived  of  the  necessaries  of 
life.  In  recollection,  doubtless,  of  this  incident,  the  bells  of  the 
Catholic  church  were  prevented,  by  orders  from  the  Bishop,  from 
beino-  rung  during  Dr.  Bowditch's  last  illness,  —  although  it  was 
at  the  season  of  Lent,  —  "  that  the  last  days  of  a  good  man 
miirht  not  be  disturbed." 

*  The  immediate  cause  of  this  outrage  was  the  supposed  confinement  of  a  female 
against  her  will ;  and  this  belief  was  chiefly  occasioned  by  the  popular  prejudice  against 
Catholics,  convents,  and  nunneries. 

116  MEMOIR. 

Such,  indeed,  was  his  respect  for  the  law  of  the  land,  that, 
when  he  had  but  a  few  days  to  live,  he  expressed  the  determination 
to  make  the  effort  to  seethe  Governor  of  the  Commonwealth,  should 
he  again  call  to  inquire  respecting  his  health,  that  he  might 
assure  him  of  the  pleasure  he  felt  at  a  recent  act,  by  which 
he  considered  the  law  to  have  been  suitably  vindicated  ;  namely, 
the  disbanding  of  certain  military  companies,  for  an  open  violation 
of  discipline  on  a  day  of  public  parade.  The  interview  accord- 
ingly took  place. 

The  existence  of  domestic  slavery  in  the  Southern  States  of 
the  Union  is  a  subject  of  so  much  importance,  and  its  discussion 
has  been  the  source  of  so  much  excitement  in  the  community, 
that  it  may  perhaps  be  proper  briefly  to  state  Dr.  Bowditch's 
views  in  regard  to  it.  Considering  slavery  to  be  one  of  the 
greatest  of  moral  evils,  his  whole  principles  and  sympathies  were 
on  the  side  of  the  oppressed.  He  scorned  the  selfish  and  timid 
considerations  by  which  many  were  led  to  refrain  from  or  to 
check  the  free  discussion  of  its  character  and  tendency.  It  was, 
however,  a  subject  upon  which  he  thought  and  acted  for  himself. 
The  blacks  he  regarded  as  a  race  of  men  naturally  less  intelligent 
than  the  whites  ;  and  he  believed  that  their  present  servile  condition 
had  so  degraded  them,  that  an  immediate  emancipation,  extorted 
from  the  slaveholders,  while  it  would  find  the  slaves  ill  fitted  for 
self-government,  would  also  prevent  the  experiment  from  having 
that  fair  chance  of  success,  which  would  be  afforded  by  a  cordial 
cooperation  of  their  former  masters.  He  would  gladly  have  seen 
a  national  debt,  even  of  immense  magnitude,  voluntarily  incurred 
for  the  purpose  of  accomplishing  this  object,  and  at  the  same  time 

MEMOIR.  117 

indemnifying  the  slaveholders,  and  thus  securing  to  the  slaves 
their  aid  and  good-will.  Indeed,  under  the  original  compact  made 
between  the  several  states,  he  did  not  think  that  the  moral  right 
existed  in  the  free  states  to  attempt  to  compel  the  emancipation 
of  the  slaves  without  making  such  compensation.  And  though 
Congress  has  exclusive  jurisdiction  within  the  District  of  Columbia, 
he  did  not  think  that,  even  there,  the  measure  of  the  immediate 
abolition  of  slavery  should  be  introduced,  without  first  obtaining 
the  consent  of  states  by  which  the  District  was  ceded  to  the 
general  government.  He  had  the  greatest  horror  at  the  thoughts 
of  the  proposed  annexation  of  Texas  to  this  Union,  and  was 
delighted  with  Dr.  Channing's  pamphlet,  as  he  would  also  have 
been  with  Mr.  Adams's  speech  in  Congress  upon  this  subject.  He 
was  in  like  manner  utterly  hostile  to  the  admission  of  any  new 
slave-holding  state  into  the  Confederacy.  He  often  said  that  he 
never  wished  to  shake  hands  with,  or  even  to  see,  a  northern  man 
who,  surrounded  by  free  institutions  at  home,  had  voted  for  any 
extension  of  the  evils  of  slavery.  Such  a  person  he  deemed 
rightly  characterized  as  one  of  the  "  white  slaves  of  the  north." 
Though  he  did  not  himself  approve  of  all  the  views  and  measures 
of  those  who  advocated  the  immediate  abolition  of  slavery,  he 
admitted  that  no  great  moral  or  religious  revolution  had  ever  been 
accomplished  except  through  the  agency  of  a  few  enthusiastic 
and  excited  spirits,  whose  apparently  excessive  and  over-zealous 
efforts  at  last  aroused  the  many  to  a  sound,  moderate,  and 
successful  reformation  of  abuses.  Such  he  hoped  would  be  the 
issue  of  the  like  efforts  in  the  present  instance.  He  considered 
the  movement  begun  which  would  sooner  or  later  prove  fatal  to 
this  institution. 

118  MEMOIR. 

Upon  one  occasion,  Dr.  Bowditch  was  introduced  by  a  friend 
to  a  stranger,  who  had  heard  much  of  his  reputation,  and  was 
obsequious  and  almost  servile  in  his  manner  of  addressing  him. 
Dr.  Bowditch  replied  with  stateliness  and  reserve.  After  the 
interview  was  ended,  the  stranger  said,  "  If  there  does  not  go 
an  aristocrat,  there  never  was  one  ;  "  to  which  remark  the  friend 
replied,  "  He  an  aristocrat !  I  care  not  how  many  such  we  have 
among  us.  The  truth  is,  you  treated  him  as  one,  and  he  despised 
you  for  your  cringing  manners,  and  want  of  a  proper  self- 

At  the  time  when  Dr.  Bowditch  was  preparing  to  leave  forever 
the  home  of  his  ancestors,  almost  his  last  act  had  been  to  repair 
with  pious  reverence  the  dilapidated  monument  beside  which  he 
had  seen  his  grandmother's  remains  deposited,*  and  beneath  which 
reposed  the  ashes  of  all  her  relatives  of  many  former  generations 
—  the  tomb  of  John  Turner.  In  September,  1835,  the  board 
whose  peculiar  province  it  was  to  take  care  of  the  burial-grounds 
of  Salem,  finding  several  tombs  out  of  repair,  advertised  them  for 
sale,  and  unceremoniously  ejected  the  remains  of  some  who,  in 
their  day,  had  been  Salem's  greatest  benefactors.  The  act  was 
at  first  the  result  of  a  want  of  due  consideration  in  two  or  three 

*  Dr.  Bowditch  often  mentioned  that  his  grandmother,  on  her  death-bed,  refused  to  be 
buried  in  this  tomb,  saying  that,  many  years  before,  at  the  funeral  of  one  of  the  family,  a 
mourner  took  up  her  father's  skull,  and  holding  it  before  her,  said,  "  This  is  the  skull  of  an 
Indian  warrior."  She  seemed  to  have  a  prophetic  dread  of  the  possibility  of  the  outrage 
subsequently  to  be  committed,  and  preferred  that  her  remains  should  be  consigned  to  the 
safer  custody  of  her  parent  earth. 

MEMOIR.  119 

individuals,  members  of  this  board  ;  but  finding  themselves  actually- 
committed  by  it  so  far  that  they  could  not  retract,  they  induced 
their  associates  officially  to  adopt  and  defend  the  measure.  The 
tomb  in  question  was  thus  violated.  Dr.  Bowditch  was  indignant 
at  an  act  which  was  alike  revolting  to  his  private  feelings,  at 
variance  with  every  dictate  of  humanity  and  civilization,  and 
which,  if  acquiesced  in,  would  be  a  permanent  public  disgrace 
to  the  city  which  he  loved.  He  headed  an  address  to  that  board, 
and  subsequently  one  to  the  selectmen.  The  public  press 
was  loud  in  its  denunciations  of  the  act.  The  board  reconsidered 
their  decision.  None  indeed,  apparently,  at  last  regretted  it  more 
sincerely  than  themselves.  Dr.  Bowditch  said,  on  this  occasion, 
that  had  the  act  been  rendered  necessary  for  the  promotion  of 
any  public  object,  he  would  have  cheerfully  surrendered  his  own 
private  wishes  to  the  interests  of  the  community.  Accordingly, 
when,  a  short  time  afterwards,  the  city  authorities  of  Boston 
wished  to  lay  out  an  avenue  or  public  walk  through  one  of  the 
burial-grounds,  —  and  had  met  with  such  sincere  and  vehement 
opposition  from  two  or  three  individuals,  whose  relatives  were 
there  buried,  that  a  useful  public  measure  was  in  danger  of  being 
abandoned,  —  Dr.  Bowditch  waited  on  those  gentlemen,  and, 
sympathizing  as  he  did  most  fully  in  all  their  feelings,  yet  wholly 
succeeded  in  conquering  the  repugnance,  which  he  satisfied  them 
ought  to  yield  to  other  and  higher  considerations. 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  in  person  under  the  common  size.  His 
hair,  originally  of  a  light  color,  was  entirely  gray  at  the  age  of 
twenty-one  years,  and  gradually  became  of  a  silvery  whiteness. 
His  high  forehead,  bright  and  penetrating  eye,  open  and  intelligent 

120  MEMOIR. 

countenance,  are,  we  think,  accurately  shown  in  the  annexed 
engraving- ;  though  the  changes  which,  with  the  rapidity  of 
lightning,  passed  across  those  expressive  features,  as  they  in 
turn  exhibited  the  feelings  of  benevolence,  or  the  most  intense 
thoughtfulness,  —  at  one  moment  radiant  with  smiles,  and  at 
another  dark  with  virtuous  indignation,  —  can  never  be  realized 
but  by  such  as  have  themselves  seen  and  studied  there  the  outward 
manifestation  of  all  that  was  most  excellent  and  beautiful  in  his 
character.  His,  indeed,  was  a  face  never  to  be  forgotten. 
Intellect  there  altogether  predominated  over  sense. 

He  always  possessed  great  bodily  activity,  and  late  in  life  he 
might  often  be  seen  running  along  or  across  the  streets  with  as 
much  quickness  as  in  youth.  In  his  daily  walks,  indeed,  he 
seemed  constantly  eager  to  outstrip  all  his  competitors.  He 
was  very  methodical  in  his  habits  of  exercise,  seldom  walking 
less  than  five  or  six  miles  each  day.  He  fully  appreciated 
the  importance  of  this  practice  to  a  person  of  sedentary  pursuits. 
Throughout  the  summer,  he  was  in  the  habit  of  driving  with 
a  horse  and  gig  eight  or  ten  miles  in  the  afternoon  ;  and  during 
one  or  more  seasons,  he  mounted  his  horse  and  rode  before 

*  He  always  drove  with  great  rapidity.  A  friend,  who  was  riding  at  a  very  moderate 
rate,  was  once  passed  on  the  road  by  him,  and  when  they  next  met  said,  "  You  whisked  by 
me  like  the  tail  of  a  comet."  At  another  time,  a  person  called  upon  one  of  Dr.  Bowditch's 
sons,  and,  after  a  few  remarks  upon  the  furious  mode  in  which  some  young  men  were  in  the 
habit  of  driving,  demanded  of  him  compensation  for  a  slight  injury  which  had  been  thus 
occasioned,  as  he  believed,  by  him.  The  supposed  youthful  offender  proved  to  be  Dr. 
Bowdhch  himself,  by  whom,  however,  the  blame  of  the  accident  was  laid  wholly  upon  the 

MEMOIR.  121 

It  has  been  strikingly  said  of  him  that  "  he  teas  a  live  man  /"  * 
All  his  processes  of  body  and  of  mind,  all  his  thoughts,  all  his 
actions,  were  full  of  life.  When  any  thing  pleased  him,  he  would 
rub  his  face  with  his  hands,  or  rub  his  hands  together,  with  an 
expression  of  the  most  free  and  unrestrained  delight ;  and  when 
any  thing  displeased  him,  and  he  felt  excited  enough  to  determine 
to  speak,  he  always,  as  he  said,  found  himself  upon  his  feet, 
without  knowing  how  he  got  there ;  and  except  in  a  standing 
position,  his  tongue  never  became  effectually  loosed.  On  such 
occasions,  his  vehement  and  earnest  manner  was  most  impressive 
in  its  effect  upon  the  beholders,  and  it  truly  appalled  the  individual 
against  whose  unjustifiable  opinions  or  conduct  his  censures  were 

other  party.  He  once  attended  Commencement  at  Cambridge  with  quite  a  spirited  horse, 
and  in  the  evening  started  to  return  to  Salem.  His  horse,  however,  seemed  very  unwilling 
to  move,  and  almost  insisted  upon  turning  into  the  yard  of  a  clergyman's  house  on  the  road. 
Dr.  Bowditch  resorted  to  the  argument  of  the  whip,  and  at  last  reached  Salem,  after  a  drive 
at  the  rate  of  about  three  or  four  miles  an  hour.  On  the  contrary,  a  country  clergyman, 
who  had  also  attended  Commencement,  was  very  much  alarmed  at  the  rapidity  with  which 
his  horse  carried  him  home,  and  at  his  impetuous  and  almost  ungovernable  movements.  The 
double  mystery  was  easily  explained  ;  and  when  the  clergyman  received  back  his  own  animal, 
he  said,  "  I  am  delighted,  Dr.  Bowditch,  that  my  poor  beast  fell  into  such  good  hands.  If  the 
mistake  had  happened,  as  I  was  afraid  it  had,  with  some  gay  young  collegian,  my  horse  would 
have  been  terribly  beaten."  Dr.  Bowditch  said  that  his  conscience  smote  him  as  he  listened, 
and  thought  how  little  cause  there  was  for  this  self-congratulation. 

*  See  anecdote  in  Judge  White's  Eulogy,  p.  57. 

t  It  has  been  observed  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  that,  "  though  no  '  rude  and  boisterous  captain 
of  the  sea,'  there  may  have  been  occasions  when  a  happier  combination  would  have  been 
produced,  had  the  same  measure  of  the  fortiter  in  re  been  blended  with  more  of  the  suaviter 
m  modo."  (North  American  Review,  January,  1S39.)  We  do  not  deny  that  such  instances 
sometimes,  though  they  rarely  occurred.      Dr.  Bowditch,  in  a  conversation  with  his  eldest  son 

VOL.    IV.  // 

122  MEMOIR. 

Dr.  Bowditch  generally  enjoyed  excellent  health,  the  result, 
beyond  doubt,  of  his  regular  and  temperate  habits.  At  the  age 
of  thirty-five  years,  however,  his  life  was  considered  in  danger 
from  the  disease  of  which,  at  that  precise  time,  (1808,)  his  two 
sisters  were  dying.  He,  like  them,  was  attacked  with  the 
alarming  symptom  of  bleeding  from  the  lungs.  Upon  this 
occasion,  his  friend  Thomas  W.  Ward,  Esq.,  relinquished  all  his 
own  engagements,  and  devoted  himself  to  the  invalid  during  a 
journey  of  several  weeks.  As  they  were  leaving  an  inn  in  a 
town  about  twenty  miles  from  Salem,  the  landlord  beckoned  to 
Mr.  Ward,  and  asked  him  where  his  friend  lived,  and,  on  being 
told,  advised  their  return,  in  the  apprehension  that  the  latter  could 
not  even  live  to  reach  the  next  stage  in  their  intended  route.  By 
the  invigorating  effect,  however,  of  the  exercise  thus  taken  in  the 
open  air,  his  disorder  was  checked,  and  his  health  completely 
reestablished.  Until  this  time,  he  had  never  tasted  wine.  It  was 
then  prescribed  as  a  medicine.  When  a  young  man,  —  but  at 
what  precise  age  is  not  known,  —  he  had  agreed  to  sit  up  with  a 
friend  who  was  ill,  and,  being  unwilling    that   so   much    precious 

upon  this  subject,  once  said,  "  There  is  a  gentleman  in  this  city,  (naming  him,)  who  possesses 
such  courtly  manners,  that  he  can  utter  a  bitter  sarcasm,  or  express  profound  contempt,  in  the 
most  mild  and  conciliatory  language.  Such,  however,  is  not  my  case.  If  1  am  obliged  to 
measure  my  words,  or  even  to  think  the  least  about  them,  I  lose  the  substance  of  what  I 
intended  to  say.  When  I  feel  that  I  cannot  remain  silent,  I  speak  —  and  in  such  terms  that 
no  one  can  misialcc  my  meaning.  But,  my  speech  being  ended,  the  whole  affair  is  over.  I 
pour  out,  indeed,  the  contents  of  my  vial  of  wrath,  but  I  then  let  it  be  seen  that  it  is  left 
empty."  And  though  it  is  certain  that  his  was  not  that  guarded  demeanor,  which,  upon  every 
occasion  of  life,  prevents  the  utterance  of  a  word  which  it  may  be  desirable  to  recall,  it  is 
also  certain  that  this  was  a  source  of  more  regret  to  himself  than  of  pain  to  others. 

MEMOIR.  123 

time  should  be  icily  spent,  he  passed  the  whole  night  in 
mathematical  computations.  He  was  much  alarmed,  the  next 
morning,  to  find  his  vision  obstructed  by  little  motes  or  specks 
passing  before  him  in  grotesque  variety  and  constant  succession. 
It  was  ascertained  that  he  had  taxed  his  eyes  beyond  their  powers, 
and  it  was  two  years  before  he  was  able  again  to  use  them  freely. 

Dr.  Bowditch  removed  to  Boston  a  few  months  before  the 
necessary  arrangements  could  be  made  for  his  family  to  join 
him  in  that  city.  Hardly  had  he  been  there  two  days,  when, 
under  the  influence  of  a  disorder  to  which  he  had  never  till  then 
been  subject,  he  fell  senseless  in  the  street.  It  happened  that 
the  hospitable  mansion  of  the  same  friend,  to  whom,  as  just 
stated,  he  had  before  been  so  much  indebted,  was  now  freely 
offered  him  as  a  temporary  home.  Only  once  again  did  this 
vertigo  cause  him  to  fall  in  a  similar  manner ;  and  then  great 
indeed  was  the  consternation  excited  in  his  family  as  they 
perceived  a  crowd  approaching  bearing  his  apparently  lifeless 
body,  while,  from  a  wound  in  his  head,  blood  was  flowing 
profusely.  A  tendency  to  this  species  of  attack,  however,  always 
continued.  But,  ascertaining  that  it  was  brought  on  by  exercise 
immediately  after  eating,  and  that  it  was  always  carried  off  by 
sitting  down  and  resting  a  few  minutes,  he  avoided  its  exciting 
cause,  and  thus  never  experienced  any  subsequent  ill  effect  from 
it.  It  was  rarely,  however,  after  this,  that  he  walked  alone.  And 
often,  when  attended  by  one  of  his  sons,  has  he  stopped  to  look  in 
at  the  window  of  some  shop  which  they  were  passing,  or  even 
walked  in,  and  asked  for  a  seat,  because  he  felt  the  sure  indications 
of  approaching  danger.       He  well  knew  the  delicate  organization 

124  MEMOIR. 

of  human  life,  upon  which  depend  alike  all  the  functions  of  the 
body  and  of  the  mind,  and  he  often  expressed  his  surprise  that 
what  seemed  so  fragile  should  yet  be  able  to  resist  so  much.  One 
of  his  favorite  quotations,  indeed,  was  that  of  the  beautiful  lines 
by  Watts  — 

"  Strange,  that  a  harp  of  thousand  strings 
Should  keep  in  tune  so  long ! " 

And  it  should  ever  be  remembered  that  the  publication  of  this 
work  was  commenced  after  he  knew  that  he  could  no  more 
expect  the  robust  and  fearless  health  of  his  youthful  days. 

Dr.  Bowditch  always  continued  his  habits  of  early  rising. 
He  greeted  the  rays  of  the  morning  sun  of  summer  as  they  first 
entered  his  library,  and  by  hours  of  study  anticipated  its  tardy 
beams  in  the  winter.  Often  has  he  been  heard  to  exclaim,  as  it 
then  first  met  his  eye, 

"  See,  from  ocean  rising,  bright  flames  the  orb  of  day ! " 

with  as  much  enthusiasm  as  at  that  period  of  his  life  when  he  had 
made  the  same  glorious  luminary  his  guide  over  the  trackless  deep. 

The  following  may  not  be  uninteresting  as  a  strictly  accurate 
description  of  each  day  of  his  life,  for  all  the  period  of  his 
residence  in  Boston  :  *  —  He  had  formerly  been  in  the  habit  of 
walking  before  breakfast,  but  during  this  period  he  breakfasted 
immediately  after  rising,  in  the  winter  by  candle  light,  and 
always  before  the  rest  of  his  family.       He  then  applied  himself  to 

•  Sec  the  similar  account,  drawn  up  by  us  at  the  recjucst  of  Judge  White,  and  printed  iu 
the  notes  to  his  Eulogy,  p.  70,  &c. 

MEMOIR.  125 

mathematics,  gaining  from  two  and  a  half  to  three  hours'  study; 
after  which  he  walked  about  a  mile  and  a  half,  attended  by  one 
of  his  sons,  and  commenced  the  business  of  the  day  at  his  office 
a  few  minutes  after  nine  o'clock.  There  also,  as  has  been  stated, 
mathematics  was  the  occupation  of  all  the  moments  left  at  his 
own  disposal.  He  frequently  walked  home  in  the  forenoon  for  a 
few  minutes,  as  he  found  his  eyes  strengthened  and  refreshed  by 
being  at  intervals  in  the  open  air  for  a  short  time.*  Every  day 
at  two  o'clock  the  office  was  closed,  and  he  then  walked  as  before, 
being  usually  accompanied  by  a  friend  who  still  lives  to  find 
in  the  recollection  of  this  daily  intercourse  one  of  the  most  pleasing 
reminiscences  of  the  past.  He  dined  at  a  quarter  before  three, 
P.  M.  After  dinner  he  indulged  in  a  short  "siesta,"  which 
lasted  from  fifteen  minutes  to  an  hour,  sometimes  even  longer. 
He  always  awoke  bright,  and  prepared  to  recommence  his  studies, 
which  he  pursued  for  about  an  hour  and  a  half  to  two  hours. 
He  always,  near  the  close  of  the  afternoon,  went  to  his  office 
again,  though  it  was  not  open  for  the  transaction  of  business, 
to  see  if  any  thing  needed  his  attention  or  explanation  ;  and  in 
the  latter  months  of  the  year,  he  was  frequently  detained  there  a 
considerable  time.  He  then  walked  a  third  time,  usually  with 
one  of  his  sons,  and  returned  to  tea.  At  all  his  meals,  his  diet 
was  perfectly  simple.  His  health  was  indeed,  latterly,  wholly 
dependent  upon  the  observance  of  a  very  exact  and  particular 
regimen.       During  the  evening  he  continued  his  studies,  and  from 

*  It  was  from  this  motive  that  lie  performed  his  ablutions  as  regularly  and  frequently  as  the 
most  pious  Mussulman.     A  basin  of  cold  water  was  as  habitually  resorted   to  by  him   upon 
entering  or  leaving  his  house,  as  his  books  were  at  other  times. 
VOL.    IV.  ffff 

126  MEMOIR. 

time  to  time  joined  in  conversation  with  his  family,  or  threw  aside 
his  books  to  devote  himself  to  his  visiters  and  friends.  It  has  been 
well  remarked,  that  "  you  never  saw  the  mathematician,  unless 
you  inquired  for  him,"  *  as  mathematics  was  a  topic  which  he 
never  obtruded  upon  any  one.  He  had  other  and  most  abundant 
resources  of  knowledge,  with  which  he  could  instruct  or  amuse. 
He  always  expected  the  members  of  his  household  to  be  at  home  by 
ten  o'clock.  The  house  was  then  closed,  and  he  usually  retired 
between  ten  and  eleven.  There  is  no  doubt  that,  taking  the  whole 
year  together,  he  got  as  much  as  six,  and  perhaps  eight  hours  a 
day,  for  his  mathematics,  besides  the  time  devoted  to  his  business 
and  other  pursuits.! 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  never  fond  of  reading  works  upon  logic, 
or  even  upon  moral  philosophy,  or  any  abstract  speculations  upon 
the  nature  and  powers  of  the  soul.  He  felt  his  mind  perplexed 
rather  than  enlightened  by  most  treatises  of  this  sort.  They 
produced,  he  said,  upon  him  the  effect  described  by  Milton,  as 
produced  upon  those  who 

"reasoned  high 
Of  providence,  foreknowledge,  will,  and  fate, 
Fixed  fate,  free-will,  foreknowledge  absolute ; 
And  found  no  end,  in  wandering  mazes  lost." 

He  felt  that  he  was  a  free  and  an  accountable  agent,  and  he  did 

*  Christian  Review,  September,  1S38. 

t  Astronomy  even  entered  somewhat  into  his  management  of  his  family.  Thus  his 
children,  for  the  first  few  years  of  their  lives,  on  going  into  the  library  in  the  morning,  if  they 
had  behaved  well  during  the  preceding  day,  received  three  dots  on  the  arm  from  his  pen, 
which  he  called  "  (he  Belt  of  Orion." 

MEMOIR.  127 

not  care  to  analyze  very  nicely  the  source  of  this  feeling.  He  also 
considered  the  time  spent  in  reading  most  works  of  imagination 
unprofitably  employed.  He  preferred  history  and  biography. 
Boswell's  Johnson  delighted  him.  Raynal's  History  of  the  Indies 
he  read  in  early  life  with  great  interest,  and  he  never  forgot  its 
facts  or  its  peculiarities  of  style.  The  Eloges  of  Cuvier  he 
regarded  as  master-pieces.  There  was,  indeed,  hardly  a  striking 
anecdote  of  any  of  the  eminent  men  of  the  present  and  of  former 
times,  which  he  did  not  seem  to  have  gathered  up  in  the  course 
of  his  miscellaneous  reading ;  and  his  excellent  memory  placed 
them  constantly  at  his  disposal.  He  mentioned  with  approbation 
the  remark,  "Why  read  any  thing  which  you  cannot  quote?" 
Not  that  he  was  himself  ever  in  the  least  degree  pedantic, 
or  ostentatious ;  but  only  because  he  valued  fact  far  before 

Of  late  years,  certainly,  his  reading  was  almost  exclusively 
confined  to  mathematics.  He  owned  the  works  of  Scott,  which 
he  highly  valued  for  their  true  delineations  of  nature,  and  for  their 
freedom  from  the  immorality  which  characterizes  the  pages  of 
some  of  the  earlier  novelists ;  but  he  rarely  indulged  himself  in  the 
recreation  of  reading  even  his  works  of  fiction.  He  reserved 
them,  as  he  said,  till  the  thermometer  stood  at  90°,  and  he  read 
them  when  he  did  not  feel  the  energy  to  devote  himself  to  abstruse 
studies.  His  recollection  of  the  characters  and  incidents  of  these 
novels  was  remarkable.  He  would  dwell  with  delight  on  Jeanie 
Deans,  and  often  recall  some  of  the  amusing  and  characteristic 
scenes    of   the    Antiquary.       The    earlier    volumes    of    Lockhart's 

128  MEMOIR. 

Life  of  Scott  had  been  republished  in  this  country  before  he  died, 
and  he  had  read  them  with  avidity  and  delight.  There  were 
many  traits  in  the  character  of  Scott,  as  there  described,  which, 
as  we  think,  greatly  resembled  his  own  ;  and  those  later  volumes, 
which  carry  the  reader  with  a  saddened  interest  to  the  closing 
scene  of  his  life,  and  which  Dr.  Bowditch  never  saw  himself, 
spoke  to  us,  who  had  been  thus  recently  bereaved  of  a  parent  in 
every  respect  equally  entitled  to  our  love,  with  a  peculiar  pathos. 
We  had  seen  the  same  lofty  virtues  displayed  through  many  years, 
which  invested  the  poet's  death-bed  with  its  high  moral  interest ; 
and  we  actually  beheld  the  euthanasia  which,  though  mentioned 
by  Scott,  we  fear  he  was  himself  hardly  able  fully  to  realize  ;  and 
many  of  the  precise  expressions  which  had  fallen  from  the  dying 
lips  of  the  one,  had  been  also  used  by  the  other.  —  The  works  of 
Byron,  on  the  contrary,  Dr.  Bowditch  never  admitted  into  his 
library  ;  and  many  years  ago  he  owned  a  small  French  work,  in 
four  volumes,  which  had  been  presented  to  him  during  one  of  his 
voyages,  but  which  Avas  not  a  book  of  very  exemplary  morality. 
It  had  engravings  which  attracted  the  notice  of  one  of  his  sons, 
when  he  had  begun  to  study  French.  Soon  after,  the  books 
disappeared  :  Dr.  Bowditch  had  burned  them,  though  he  had  kept 
them  many  years  on  account  of  the  donor,  and  the  really  beautiful 
execution  of  the  work.  He  subscribed  to  very  many  periodicals, 
and  by  glancing  his  eye  over  them  cursorily,  he  seemed  to  find 
out  what  articles  were  worth  a  careful  perusal,  and  made  himself 
master  of  whatever  was  important. 

lie  used   playfully  to  denominate  as  "the  poet's  corner"  that 

MEMOIR.  129 

part  of  his  library  where  were  to  be  found  Shakspeare,  Pope, 
Milton,  &c. ;  *  and  it  is  quite  a  remarkable  fact,  that  upon  the 
inside  of  the  two  leather  covers,  in  which  he  kept  the  proof-sheets 
of  this  work  while  in  the  process  of  publication,  and  which  were 
therefore  constantly  before  him,  he  had  entered  in  his  own  hand- 
writing extracts  from  Burns's  "  Cotter's  Saturday  Night,"  and  the 
following  stanza  of  Hafiz,  the  Persian  poet,  as  given  by  Sir 
William  Jones  :  — 

"On  parents'  knees,  a  naked,  new-bom  child, 
Weeping  thou  sat'st,  whilst  all  around  thee  smiled. 
So  live,  that,  sinking  in  thy  last,  long  sleep, 
Calm  thou  mayst  smile,  whilst  all  around  thee  weep." 

So  likewise  there  and  in  his  Newton's  Principia,  we  find  copied 
by  him  verses  of  Voltaire  and  other  French  writers  in  honor 
of  that  illustrious  author. t  Among  the  poets  of  America,  Bryant 
was  his  favorite.  He  has  often  said  that  he  thought  "  The  Old 
Man's  Funeral"  was  one  of  the  most  beautiful  poetical  pieces  in 
the  English  language.  Never  can  it  be  hereafter  perused  by  us 
without  recalling  one  of  the  most  interesting  and  touching  scenes 
at  the   close  of  his  own   life.      Dr.   Bowditch  often  delighted   to 

*  He,  a  few  years  ago,  expressed  his  satisfaction  at  having  been  tempted  to  read  Milton 
again,  by  the  beauty  of  a  new  Boston  edition  of  that  author.  —  Mr.  Young's  Eulogy,  p.  81. 

t  Upon  these  covers  he  had  also  written  the  mottoes, "  Ohne  Hast,  ohne  Rast,"  (Goethe,) 
and  "Ne  tentes  aut  perfice;"  with  extracts  from  Virgil,  Ovid,  Lucretius,  Halley,  Cumberland, 
Bolingbroke,  and  Charles  Lamb.  Among  the  lines  quoted  from  Voltaire  are  the  following 
upon  "  The  Academicians  who  measured  the  Earth  in  Lapland  : "  — 

"  Vous  avez  recherche  dans  ces  lieux  pleins  d'ennui, 
Ceque  Newton  connut  sans  sorter  de  chez  lui.'' 

vol.  iv.  h  h 

130  MEMOIR. 

quote  the  stanzas  "  On    two    Swallows    that    flew   into  a  Church 
during  divine  Service,"  commencing-, 

"  Gay,  guiltless  pair, 
What  seek  ye  from  the  fields  of  heaven  ? 

Ye  have  no  need  of  prayer, 
Ye  have  no  sins  to  be  forgiven." 

The  author  *  was  his  friend,  and    he  deemed  that  Boston   might 
well  be  proud  to  own  him  as  her  son. 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  fond  of  music,  and  when  young  played  a 
good  deal  on  the  flute  ;  but  he  soon  abandoned  it  altogether,  as 
leading  to  an  unprofitable  employment  of  time,  and  the  formation 
of  bad  habits.  For  the  same  reasons,  he  through  life  altogether 
abstained  from  the  use  of  tobacco  in  any  of  its  forms,  and  never 
played  at  any  game  of  cards.  Chess  he  also  avoided,  as  not 
affording  any  relaxation  of  body  or  mind,  and  as  leading  to  no 
useful  or  practical  object.  Dr.  Bowditch  was  rarely  induced  to 
pass  an  evening  at  the  theatre.  Fictitious  representations  of  life, 
either  under  tragic  or  comic  aspects,  always  left  upon  his  mind 
a  feeling  of  dissatisfaction  with  its  realities.  But  when  he  did  go 
to  hear  some  popular  actor,  his  laugh  was  more  loud  and  cordial, 
or  the  starting  tear  betrayed  itself  more  readily,  than  if  this  had 
been  an  excitement  to  which  he  was  more  habituated.  Much  as 
he  was  gratified  by  the  sight  of  innocent  hilarity,  he  did  not  feel 
at  home  in  the  ball-roorn  or  crowded  assembly.  He  seldom,  it 
might  almost  be  said  never,  went  into  general  society,  but  nothing 
contributed  more  to  his  happiness  than  a  familiar  intercourse  with 
his  friends. 

*  Charles  Sprague,  Esq. 

MEMOIR.  131 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  very  quick  in  his  judgments  of  character, 
and  having  formed  his  opinion,  he  was  slow  to  change  it.  A 
moral  failing  once  noticed  in  any  one,  he  always  associated  with 
the  idea  of  that  individual ;  and  a  character  which  once  attracted 
his  respect  and  love  he  ever  continued  to  regard  with  interest, 
apparently  overlooking  the  slighter  blemishes  which  a  more  intimate 
acquaintance  may  have  disclosed.  He  had  a  few  particular 
friends,  in  whose  society  he  especially  delighted.  Thus  while  he 
lived  at  Salem,  and  also  during  his  residence  in  Boston,  there 
were  three  or  four  individuals  with  whom  he  associated  more  than 
with  all  his  other  friends  and  acquaintance  together.  They  were 
the  companions  of  his  daily  walks,  and  at  their  houses  almost 
exclusively  he  made  his  evening  visits. 

Dr.  Bowditch  showed  a  like  constancy  and  perseverance  in 
any  course  of  life,  or  in  the  prosecution  of  any  measure  which  he 
had  undertaken.  Deciding  only  after  due  deliberation,  he  acted 
without  the  slightest  hesitancy  or  vacillation  of  purpose.  He 
believed  fully  in  the  scripture,  "  Unstable  as  water,  thou  shalt 
not  excel."  He  has  often  reproved  the  use  of  the  expression 
"  I  can't  do  it  ;  "  saying,  "  Never  undertake  any  thing  but  with 
the  feeling  that  you  can  and  will  do  it.  With  that  feeling  success 
is  certain  ;  and   without  it  failure  is  unavoidable." 

Dr.  Bowditch's  intercourse  with  his  family  was  entirely  free 
and  unreserved.  No  feeling  of  restraint  was  ever  inspired  by  his 
presence.  Among  his  children,  he  was  himself  a  child.  One 
occasion  is  remembered,  when,  after  partaking  with  them  in  some 

132  MEMOIR. 

frolic,  he  laughed  at  his  own  want  of  dignity,  and  proceeded 
humorously  to  contrast  the  scene  around  him  with  a  description 
of  the  formal  observances  and  requirements  of  past  times. 
A  model  for  the  imitation  of  all  parents,  he  avoided  every  thing 
calculated  to  interrupt  the  mutual  confidence  and  familiarity  which 
existed  between  him  and  his  family.  Though  readily  granting  any 
reasonable  favor,  he  was  never  weakly  indulgent.  Inculcating 
by  precept  and  example  the  most  valuable  lessons  of  life,  affection 
ever  prompted  and  directed  his  admonitions,  and  a  sound  judgment 
always  controlled  the  impulses  of  affection.  The  censure  of  an 
instructer  uniformly  brought  with  it  the  weight  of  a  father's 
displeasure;  since  Dr.  Bowditch  never  weakened  the  authority 
which  he  had  thus  delegated  to  another,  by  expressing  a  doubt 
whether,  in  any  particular  instance,  it  had  been  judiciously 
exercised.  He  devoted  much  of  his  own  time  (though  not  so 
much  of  late  years  as  formerly)  to  the  instruction  of  his  children, 
particularly  the  elder  ones  ;  his  chief  endeavor  being  to  awaken 
in  them  a  taste  for  mathematics.  He  persuaded  one  of  his  sons 
to  learn  French  when  very  young,  by  the  stimulus  of  a  small 
compensation  for  the  translation  of  a  certain  number  of  pages. 
The  result  satisfied  him,  however,  that  this  was  inexpedient.  The 
best  works  in  the  language  were  read  before  they  could  be  duly 
appreciated,  and  they  could  never  afterwards  be  read  with  the 
interest  of  a  first  perusal.  His  experience,  also,  led  him  to 
acquiesce  in  a  child's  pursuit  of  any  study,  though  comparatively 
useless  in  itself,  if  voluntarily  undertaken,  and  prosecuted  Avith 
ardor;  as  he  believed  that  it  might  be  attended  with  incidental 
advantageous  results,  and  that  it  would  certainly  assist  in  forming 
a  habit  of  industry. 

MEMOIR.  133 

If  a  predisposition  were  manifested  for  any  occupation  in  life, 
the  father  candidly  stated  his  own  opinion,  and  enforced  his 
views  by  such  arguments  as  occurred  to  him,  but  left  the  final 
choice  of  bis  child  free.  In  one  instance  of  this  kind,  he,  by 
his  advice,  induced  the  adoption  of  a  profession  other  than  that 
for  which  a  slight  preference  had  been  at  first  felt  ;  while  in 
another  case,  he  readily  yielded  at  last  his  own  wishes  to  the 
strong  predilection  which  one  of  his  sons  manifested  for  a  seafaring 
life;  judging  wisely  in  both  cases.  He  often  spoke  of  the  feeling 
of  independence  resulting  from  the  consciousness  that  one  is  able 
to  maintain  himself  by  his  own  exertions,  saying  that  "  A  man 
whose  capital  is  in  his  head  is  free  from  all  anxiety  about 
investments,  and  has  a  much  more  certain  income  than  any  one 
else."  He  early  impressed  upon  his  sons  the  necessity  which  they 
would  be  under  of  earning  their  own  livelihood,  and  he  regarded 
it  as  a  most  fortunate  necessity.  One  of  his  eulogists  says,  "  He 
would  not,  as  we  happen  to  know,  have  accepted  the  offer  of  a 
fortune  for  one  of  his  sons,  at  the  risk  of  any  unpropitious  influence 
upon  his  opening  mind  and  character."  * 

As  his  children  grew  up,  they  became  his  companions.  His 
most  intimate  friends  were  those  who  day  by  day  met  around  his 
own  fireside.  To  them  his  most  secret  thoughts  were  disclosed, 
except  only  in  those  cases  where  silence  was  a  duty  which  he 
owed  to  others.  Each  of  his  children  may  well  apply  to  him 
(as  was  indeed  done  by  one  of  them  who  communicated  in 
a  letter  to  a  younger    brother    the    information    of  his    dangerous 

*  Judge  White's  Eulogy,  p.  50. 
vol.  iv.  i  i 

134  MEMOIR. 

illness)     the    beautiful     language    in    which    Marcia    speaks    of 

Cato  :  — 

"  Though  stern  and  awful  to  the  foes  of  Rome, 

He  is  all  goodness,  Lucia  —  always  mild, 
Compassionate,  and  gentle  to  his  friends ; 
Filled  with  domestic  tenderness,  —  the  best, 
The  kindest  father !     I  have  ever  found  him 
Easy  and  good,  and  bounteous  to  my  wishes." 

We  feel  assured  that  only  one  who  had  often  seen  Dr.  Bowditch 
by  his  own  fireside,  could  have  penned  the  resolutions  received 
after  his  decease  from  the  Faculty  of  a  neighboring  university, 
(Yale  College,)  which  state  'that  they  "  respectfully  and  feelingly 
sympathize  with  the  children  of  the  illustrious  deceased,  whose 
memory,  justly  dear  to  the  country  which  he  honored,  is  cherished 
still  more  affectionately  by  those  who  were  so  happy  as  to  call 
him  their  father."* 

*  We  have  thought  that  the  reader  might  be  interested  in  the  following  remarks  of  Rev. 
N.  L.  Frothingham,  D.  D.,  being  an  incidental  notice  of  the  death  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  in  a 
discourse  delivered  at  the  First  Church  in  Boston,  on  Sunday,  March  25,  1838:  —  "We 
need  not  wait  for  the  consummations  of  a  future  world,  to  see  that  the  righteous  spirit  is  more 
than  a  match  for  death.  It  wins  the  victory  even  now.  The  eyes  of  the  public  have  been 
turned,  within  a  few  days,  to  a  remarkable  instance  of  this  ;  and  they  will  long  remain  fixed 
upon  so  serene  and  noble  a  spectacle.  A  great  man  has  been  struck  down  among  us.  A 
wood  man  has  gone  his  way  from  us.  His  was  a  mind  eminent  among  the  loftiest,  and  as 
benignant  as  it  was  strong.  His  renown,  that  travelled  over  the  world,  was  the  least  portion 
of  his  deserts.  His  unaffected  goodness  was  as  noble  as  his  genius.  His  character  was  as 
striking  as  his  fame.  Who,  that  ever  saw  him,  forgot  him?  There  was  a  divine  stamp  set 
upon  his  clear,  high  brow.  A  healthy  vigor  looked  out  of  his  cheerful  but  thoughtful  eyes. 
He  was  in  the  midst  of  the  abstractcst  science,  and  in  the  midst  of  the  world's  busiest  interests, 
at  the  same  time,  —  not  absorbed  by  the  one,  not  disturbed  by  the  other,  seeing  calmly  through 

MEMOIR.  135 

We  have  endeavored,  by  these  various  details,  to  lay  before  the 
reader    such    facts    and    circumstances    as  would  in   some  degree 

both.     Strangers  might  well  turn  as  he  passed,  to  ask  who  he  was ;  and  his  most  intimate 
friends  would  feel  that  they  themselves  knew  of  him  but  the  half. 

"  I  can  hardly  bear  to  hear  him  described  chiefly  as  an  Astronomer  or  a  Mathematician,  — 
though  among  the  most  illustrious  that  have  lived,  —  he  was  so  honestly,  heartily,  bravely, 
entirely,  a  man.  There  was  something  in  him  brighter  than  talent,  and  deeper  even  than  that 
profound  knowledge  which  led  the  way  with  a  modest  silence  where  there  were  few  intellects 
that  could  so  much  as  attend  him.  It  was  the  light  and  depth  of  a  true  soul.  While  he 
demonstrated  the  subtlest  problems,  and  scaled  starry  heights,  he  displayed  the  simplest,  the 
most  practical,  the  most  engaging  worth.  It  was  an  instruction  to  behold  him.  All  the 
affections  of  youthful  life  beamed  from  his  face.  His  feeling  was  as  keen  as  his  intelligence. 
To  be  with  him  was  a  wholesome  delight ;  for  his  was  the  energy  and  the  very  inspiration  of 
good  sense,  —  a  free,  natural,  unseducible  spirit,  playful  and  sublime.  He  was  full  of 
humanity.  And  in  using  that  word,  I  do  not  understand  it  in  the  technical  sense  in  which  it  is 
commonly  taken,  being  applied  often  to  the  weakly  charitable,  and  assumed  often,  as  if  it 
were  exclusively  their  own,  by  visionary  schemers  and  itinerant  philanthropists.  But  I  mean 
that  he  was  rich  in  the  elements  and  endowments  that  best  distinguish  our  nature  ;  wise 
beyond  books ;  benevolent  without  theory,  or  feebleness,  or  parade ;  active,  affectionate, 
manful ;  pursuing  his  way  without  fear  or  favor ;  poised  upon  himself,  and  seeming  to  be  lifted 
by  a  calm  philosophy  above  all  the  groveling  interests,  and  fanciful  systems,  and  transient 
fashions,  and   heated  delusions  of  the  world, 

"  Alas,  that  such  a  one  should  be  withdrawn  in  the  midst  of  his  labors  and  glory  !  But 
that  :  alas '  he  left  for  others  to  say.  For  himself,  it  was  neither  expressed  nor  felt.  He  left 
life  as  cheerfully  as  he  had  traversed  it.  There  was  no  difference  between  his  last  days 
and  those  which  had  gone  before  them,  but  that  they  were  still  more  admirable.  He  had 
thought  as  a  philosopher.  He  showed  now  the  most  precious  fruits  of  his  thought.  He 
submitted  and  suffered  like  a  Christian  disciple.  He  expired  like  a  saint.  Such  a 
'  euthanasia,'  as  he  himself  called  it,  with  nothing  but  peace  and  hope  in  it.  exhibits  the 
full  power  of  Christian  principle.  It  ought  not  to  be  confined  to  the  know  ledge  of  a  few, 
and  cannot  be.  It  will  spread  as  far  as  his  name,  and  do  good,  as  his  studies  had  done 
before."  —  MS. 

136  MEMOIR. 

enable  him  to  form  his  own  judgment  respecting  the  most  striking 
peculiarities  which  marked  the  habits  and  character  of  Dr. 
Bowditch.  We  thought  it  not  advisable  to  attempt  an  elaborate 
analysis  of  what  we  felt  ourselves  incompetent  fully  to  measure 
and  comprehend.  In  his  general  manners  he  was  affable  and 
courteous,  social  in  his  feelings,  and  in  all  the  domestic  relations 
most  kind  and  tender.  Crowned  with  the  honors  of  science,  he 
retained  the  modesty  and  simplicity  of  a  child.  Endowed  with 
the  highest  genius,  none  was  more  wholly  free  from  pride. 
Frank,  open,  and  naturally  without  reserve,  he  could  yet  be 
most  cautious  and  discreet.  No  less  ardent  than  steadfast  in  his 
attachments ;  easily  seeing  and  sincerely  regretting  the  foibles 
or  faults  of  his  friend,  he  yet  loved  him  still.  Having  a  boundless 
extent  of  mental  and  moral  resources,  their  varied  display  gave 
to  the  longest  intimacy  the  interest  of  a  recent  acquaintance. 
With  a  benevolence  as  universal  and  as  active  as  ever  dwelt  in 
the  heart  of  a  philanthropist,  his  treasures  of  knowledge  were 
freely  imparted  to  the  world :  and  much  of  his  valuable  time, 
and  of  the  small  earnings  of  his  honorable  industry,  was  devoted 
with  judicious  and  unostentatious  liberality  to  the  promotion  of 
the  happiness  and  welfare  of  others.  Holding  in  slight  estimation 
the  services  which  he  thus  rendered,  he  manifested  a  lively  and 
enduring  sense  of  kindness  received.  Quick  and  excitable,  indeed, 
when  he  saw  the  occasion,  he  was  yet  most  placable  and  forgiving, 
and  never  harbored  ill-will  for  a  moment.  The  occasional  indis- 
cretions of  an  ardent  temperament  he  redeemed  by  displays  of  the 
most  magnanimous  virtue.  Devoted  to  the  loftiest  speculations,  he 
was  not  neglectful  of  the  most  trifling  and  minute  duty.  Undeterred 
by  fear,  uninfluenced  by  any  prospect  of  advantage,  he  followed 

MEMOIR.  137 

truth,  and  obeyed  conscience  ;  and  the  popular  clamor,  and  even 
the  coolness  of  some  whose  friendship  he  valued,  were  alike 
unheeded.  He  possessed  an  energy,  promptness,  and  decision, 
equal  to  every  emergency,  and  which  insured  success  in  each 
undertaking.  He  endeavored  to  save  each  moment  of  time,  and 
apply  it  to  the  uses  of  eternity.  Governed  by  the  highest  and 
purest  motives,  the  most  distinguishing  and  beautiful  trait  of  his 
character  was  his  perfect  integrity.  Never  was  he  more  truly 
indignant  than  at  the  want  of  this  quality  in  others.  Any 
thing,  indeed,  mean  or  dishonorable,  and  especially  any  thing 
like  fraud,  equivocation,  or  falsehood,  always  received  his  sternest 
rebuke.*  It  has  been  truly  said,  that,  in  questions  of  morals, 
you  could  no  more  becloud  or  mystify  him  than  in  questions  of 
quantity ;  that  whatever  he  saw  in  right  or  wrong,  he  saw  as 
clearly  as  in  plus  or  minus ;  and  that  he  carried  out  a  practical 
obedience  to  whatever  he  believed,  alike  in  both  cases. f 

On  January  1st,  1838,  Dr.  Bowditch,  to  the  casual  observer, 
seemed  likely  to  enjoy  many  more  years  of  health  and  strength. 
Nor  had  he  himself  any  idea  that  his  brief  days  were  already 
numbered.  To  a  female  annuitant  who  then  called  at  the  office 
for   her  quarterly  payment,  he  said  he  felt  "very  well;"  but    she 

*  Thus,  many  years  ago,  in  Salem,  one  of  his  sons,  at  a  female  school,  being  in  an 
apartment  with  one  other  boy,  threw  a  ball  which  broke  a  mirror ;  and  his  comrade  advised 
concealment.  He  was  so  much  pleased  when  his  son  told  the  truth  immediately  about  the 
affair,  that,  though  he  was  then  obliged  to  live  with  rigid  economy,  and  the  payment  was 
really  inconvenient  to  him,  he  bought  a  new  mirror,  and  expressed  far  more  pleasure  at  the 
son's  performance  of  so  high  a  duty  as  telling  the  truth,  than  he  did  regret  at  his  carelessness. 

|  Christian  Review,  September,  1S38. 
vol.  iv.  k  k 

138  MEMOIR. 

was  to  receive  her  next  payment  from  the  hands  of  a  stranger. 
He  had  attained  the  precise  age  at  which  two  of  his  ancestors 
had  been  called  to  the  tomb  ;  and  in  the  midst  of  this  apparently 
perfect  health,  in  the  full  and  active  enjoyment  and  exercise  of  all 
his  faculties  of  body  and  mind,  and  surrounded  by  so  much  to  make 
life  desirable,  his  own  summons  came  to  quit  it.  He  received  it 
with  the  calmness  of  a  Philosopher,  and  the  cheerfulness  of  a 
Christian.  After  having  experienced  slight  pain  and  uneasiness 
for  three  or  four  months,  about  the  end  of  December,  he  mentioned 
his  symptoms  to  his  third  son,  —  a  physician,  —  who  wished  him 
immediately  to  submit  to  his  prescriptions.  He  replied  that  he 
had  not  then  leisure  to  be  ill;  that  the  affairs  of  the  Life  Insurance 
Company  required  his  constant  attention  ;  and  that  he  could  not 
put  himself  under  the  hands  of  the  doctors  until  after  the  payments 
of  the  first  part  of  the  month  of  January  had  been  completed. 
As  soon  as  possible,  however,  after  the  period  thus  mentioned, 
his  son,  who  considered  the  symptoms  to  be  of  an  alarming 
character,  persuaded  him  to  call  in  the  aid  of  the  same  eminent 
medical  adviser  and  friend,*  to  whose  attentions  his  mother  had 
been  so  much  indebted  during  her  protracted  illness.  Almost 
immediately  it  was  decided  that  the  disease  under  which  he  labored 
was  a  tumor  in  the  abdomen,  of  a  dangerous  and  probably  a  fatal 
character.  The  symptoms  rapidly  became  more  and  more  decided, 
and  at  intervals  the  most  acute  pain  was  experienced,  lasting 
sometimes  for  twenty  or  thirty  minutes,  and  from  which  relief 
could  only  be  obtained  by  means  of  hot  applications.  His  stomach 
now   rejected    all   solid    food,  and    could    only    bear    the    slightest 

•  .Tamos  Jackson,  M.  D.,    now    President   of  the   American    Academy   of  Arts   and 

MEMOIR.  139 

quantity  even  of  liquid,  and   sometimes   none   at    all.      Death  by 
starvation   was    in    prospect.        A  general    debility    of  the    whole 
system  was  the  unavoidable  consequence  of  the  small  degree  of 
nourishment  which  he  was  able  to  take.      He  became  emaciated 
to    a    degree  of  which    even    his    consulting    physician,    with    all 
his  extensive    practice,  had    never  before   seen  an  instance.     The 
disease    had     wholly    gained    the    mastery  over    his    body.      But 
his    mind    seemed    to    acquire    strength  and  energy  as    the  crisis 
approached.       He  was  fully  apprized  of  his  danger,  arranged  all 
his  worldly  affairs,  and  executed  his  will  in  a  manner  with  which 
he  expressed  himself  perfectly  satisfied.      He  continued  to   sit  in 
his  library  part  of  each  day,  until  the  day  before  his  death,  when 
he  for  the  first  time  was  unable  to  rise  from  his  bed.      He  rode 
to   his    office    every  day  until  February  17,   not  quite  four  weeks 
before  his  death.      It  was  an  elevating  spectacle  to  see   such  an 
unconquerable    spirit    struggling    to    discharge    every    duty,    even 
when  the  body  had  almost  refused  to   perform  its  functions,  and 
when    death    was    most    legibly    written    upon    the    countenance. 
Subsequently,  the  secretary   of  the   company,  by  his  desire,  came 
each  day  to  his  house  with  such  papers  as  required  his  signature, 
or  with  the  books  for  him  to  examine  ;  and  as  lately  as  the  7th 
of  March,  he  transmitted  to  the  company  whose  affairs  he  had  so 
long  superintended,  the  complete  account  of  the    transactions   of 
the  preceding  month,  drawn  up  as  usual ;  and  with  it  he  sent  a 
farewell  communication,  which  he  had  dictated  and   signed.      In 
this    he  states  that   his    declining  health  would  probably  make  it 
the  last   which    he    should   ever  address    to    them,  and    takes    an 
affectionate    leave    of    those    who    had    had    the    control    of    the 
institution,  and    of  those   who  had    been  associated  with    him   in 

140  MEMOIR. 

its  management.  He  also  alludes  to  the  length  of  time  during 
which  the  institution  had  been  under  his  charge,  and  earnestly 
commends  its  interests  "  to  that  Providence  which  had  seen  fit  to 
bless  their  efforts  to  make  it  deserving  of  public  regard."  To  this 
letter  he  received  a  most  affectionate  reply,  not  attested  as  an 
official  act  by  the  secretary  of  the  company,  but  personally  signed 
by  each  of  the  twelve  directors,  who  assured  him  in  the  strongest 
terms  of  their  respect  and  regard,  of  their  conviction  of  the  value 
of  his  past  services,  and  of  their  deep  and  sincere  sorrow  for  his 
serious  illness.  The  promissory  note  upon  which  he  made  the 
endorsement  before  mentioned,  has  upon  it  the  latest  specimen  of 
his  hand-writing. 

In  like  manner  he  continued  to  correct  the  proof-sheets  of  this 
volume  ;  and  within  a  week  of  his  death,  he  said  that  the  sheet 
which  he  was  then  revising  contained  the  discussion  of  a  difficult 
problem  ;  that  M.  Poisson  thought  he  had  made  an  improvement 
upon  the  method  of  the  author,  whereas  he  believed  he  had  shown 
that,  on  the  contrary,  the  supposed  improved  method  was  fairly 
deducible  from  that  of  La  Place  :  and  he  added,  "  I  feel  that  I 
am  Nathaniel  Bowditch  still  —  only  a  little  weaker."  The  last 
page  upon  which  his  eye  was  ever  to  rest,  was  the  thousandth, 
though  no  part  of  the  volume  subsequent  to  the  six  hundred  and 
eighty-fourth  page  has  received  that  final  revision  which  he  was 
accustomed  to  bestow  upon  it,  after  the  friend  before  alluded  to 
had  laid  before  him  the  list  of  typographical  errata,  which  he  had 
discovered.*     The  reader  will  therefore  pass  a  charitable  judgment 

•  Whenever  one  hundred  and  twenty  pages  were  printed,  Dr.  Bowditch  had  them  bound 

MEMOIR.  141 

upon  this  latter  portion  of  the  volume.  Dr.  Bowditch  hoped  to 
be  spared  to  finish  its  few  remaining  pages.  It  called  forth  the 
last  efforts  of  his  powerful  intellect,  and  afforded  him  amusement 
and  solace  almost  as  it  were  to  the -hour  of  death. 

He  continued  to  take  a  lively  interest  in  all  such  passino- 
events  as  he  considered  to  have  an  important  bearing  upon  the 
welfare  of  the  community.  He  was  able  to  see  a  few,  and  only 
a  few,  of  his  most  valued  friends  ;  and  he  conversed  with  them 
and  with  his  family  upon  his  approaching  separation  with  the 
utmost  resignation  and  calmness.  To  two  of  his  most  intimate 
friends,  then  absent  in  Europe,  he  sent  a  message,  assuring  them 
of  his  continued  attachment.  Throughout  his  illness  he  was  only 
"  watched  by  eyes  that  loved  him."  The  kind  offices  of  others 
were  not  needed.  Filial  hands  alone  ministered  to  his  wants ; 
filial  hearts  alone  anticipated  his  wishes.  To  his  eldest  daughter, 
as  she  stood  hour  after  hour  behind  his  chair,  or  beside  his  bed, 
gently  rubbing  his  head  in  the  manner  which  had  ever  been 
agreeable  to  him,  he  playfully  remarked  that  her  fingers  were  like 
"  Perkins's  Tractors,"  and  that  the  process  itself  was  "  Terrible 
Tractoration."  He  said  of  her  to  one  of  his  sons,  "  I  feel 
respecting  Mary  to-day,  as  I  did  the  day  when  she  was  born  ;  " 
and  to  the  inquiry  how  he  then  felt,  he  replied,  "  It  was  the 
happiest   day   of  my  life,  for   I  then    first   had   a   little   daughter." 

in  a  pamphlet  form,  and  sent  them  to  Professor  Peirce,  who,  in  this  manner,  read  the  work 
for  the  first  time.     He  returned  the  pages  with  the  list  of  errata,  which  were  then  corrected 
with  a  pen  or  otherwise  in  every  copy  of  the  whole  edition. 
VOL.   IV.  /  I 

142  MEMOIR. 

He  once  said  to  her  in  a  smiling  manner,  "  You  seem  to  my 
eyes  to  be  forty  years  old.  This  expression  in  itself  may  not 
be  flattering  to  you ;  but  I  mean  by  it,  that  you  have  compressed 
the  services  of  many  years  into  the  brief  period  of  my  illness." 
And  one  day,  as  he  was  examining  his  papers,  and  burning  those 
he  thought  of  no  value,  he  met  a  copy  which  he  had  made  several 
years  before  of  those  beautiful  lines  in  Scott's  Marmion  — 

"  O  woman,  in  our  hours  of  ease, 
Uncertain,  coy,  and  hard  to  please, 
And  variable  as  the  shade 
By  the  light,  quivering  aspen  made, 
When  pain  and  anguish  wring  the  brow, 
A  ministering  angel  thou  ! " 

This  he  handed  to  her,  saying  that  of  the  compliment  contained  in 
the  two  last  lines  she  was  certainly  deserving.  * 

With  no  less  assiduity  did  his  younger  daughter  delight  to 
discharge  such  kind  oflices  as  did  not  require  the  greater  skill 
and  experience  possessed  by  her  elder  sister  ;  and  he  who  of  late 
years  had  always  assented  to  her  request  to  be  the  companion 
of  his  noon-day  walk  upon  the  Sabbath,  and  who  indeed  had 
always  regarded  her  with  peculiar  tenderness  as  the  child  of  his 

*  During  his  illness,  he  examined  and  burned  very  many  papers ;  and  after  his  death, 
it  was  found  that  he  had  probably,  in  this  manner,  and  at  this  time,  destroyed  all  the 
correspondence  between  himself  and  his  wife  before  and  after  marriage ;  and  also  a  manuscript 
folio  volume,  in  about  seventy  pages  of  which  his  eldest  son  had,  several  years  before,  recorded 
ihe  details  of  his  early  life,  as  taken  down  from  his  own  lips,  and  which  volume  had  been  left 
•in  his  library  that  the  narrative  might  be  continued  from  time  to  time. 

MEMOIR.  143 

old  age,  now  made  a  like  affectionate  return  for  these  her  efforts 
to  please  him.  His  eldest  son  he  once  addressed  in  the  language 
of  Scripture,  "  My  first-born,  my  beloved."  He  employed  him  to 
draft  his  will,  and  all  his  various  letters  and  other  documents. 
His  second  son  attended  to  his  requests  in  regard  to  all  matters 
of  business,  and  the  arrangement  of  his  pecuniary  affairs.  He 
was  particularly  desirous  to  discharge  all  his  debts,  however 
trifling,  before  he  died,  or  to  leave  the  means  for  their  instant 
discharge  afterwards.  To  this  son  he  mentioned,  the  day  before 
his  death,  a  female,  of  whose  little  concerns  he  had  always  taken 
care,  and  said  to  him,  "  I  wish  you  to  call  upon  her  before  you 
visit  any  one  else,  after  attending  my  funeral,  and  inform  her 
that  I  have  transferred  her  to  your  charge,  and  that  you  will 
supply  my  place  to  her  through  life."  His  two  eldest  sons  no 
longer  resided  under  the  parental  roof,  and  as  they  were  one 
evening  leaving  his  presence,  he  said  to  them,  "  Farewell,  my 
sons  ;  my  blessing  goes  with  you."  His  third  son  had  the  peculiar 
privilege,  as  his  medical  attendant,  to  pass  nearly  all  of  each  day, 
and  the  whole  of  each  night,  in  his  apartment,  enjoying  an 
unreserved  intercourse  with  him  of  the  most  elevating  character  ; 
and  boundless  indeed,  to  a  degree,  as  he  admits,  far  beyond  his 
deserts,  was  the  gratitude  which  owned  his  constant  attentions. 
His  youngest  son  was,  like  the  elder  ones,  absent  from  his  father's 
house,  but  upon  learning  his  illness,  each  evening  saw  him  a 
visiter  there  ;  and  on  the  last  night  but  one  of  his  life,  when  an 
elder  brother  intended  to  act  as  a  watcher,  he  asked  and  readily 
obtained  his  father's  consent  to  be  allowed  that  privilege.  The 
teachings  of  that  night  he  will  never  forget.  He  had  asked  his 
father    for    a    kiss  when    leaving  him  upon  one  of  these    evening 

144  MEMOIR. 

visits,  and  received  the  reply  —  "  Kiss  you,  my  dear  !  Yes,  if  I 
die  in  the  act !  "  At  another  time  he  said,  "  I  leave  behind  me  a 
family  of  love,  which,  I  rejoice  to  believe,  will  long  continue  a 
united  household,  after  I  shall  have  been  removed  from  it  by 
death."  To  her  who  in  early  years  had  been  left  alone  among 
strangers,  he  recalled  the  dying  words  of  the  sister  who  had  then 
intrusted  her  to  his  care  —  "  Promise  to  be  a  father  to  my  child  ;  " 
and  he  stated  that  he  had  always  endeavored  to  redeem  the 
pledge  then  solemnly  given,  and  had  never  intentionally  made  any 
distinction  between  her  and  his  own  children ;  and  that  he  had 
made  an  adequate  provision  for  her  by  his  will,  that  she  might 
not  feel  herself  dependent  even  upon  them,  though  he  doubted 
not  for  a  moment,  that  each  of  them  would  always  be  ready  to 
welcome  her  to  his  home  and  his  heart.  He  then  thanked  her  for 
that  performance  of  household  duties  which  had  so  much  lightened 
the  labors  of  his  wife  and  himself,  and  added  that  if  any  occasion 
had  ever  occurred  (which  there  had  not,  to  his  knowledge)  when 
he  had  shown  her  less  affection  than  the  kindest  parent  ought  to 
have  shown  to  the  most  dutiful  daughter,  she  must  overlook  and 
forget  it  as  accidental.  In  various  ways  he  constantly  showed  the 
most  considerate  affection  for  his  family.  Thus  he  said  that  he 
had  himself  found  great  consolation,  after  the  death  of  friends,  in 
reflecting  that  they  met  their  fate  with  a  cheerful  and  resigned 
spirit ;  and  he  added,  "  I  am  happy  that  I  can  leave  to  you  the 
same  consolation."  And  Ave  indeed  saw  in  him  a  soul  perfectly 
calm  and  serene.  Two  nights  only  before  his  death,  after  awaking 
at  midnight,  and  speaking  a  few  moments  very  impressively 
respecting    his    approaching    end    to    two    of  his   sons    who   were 

MEMOIR.  145 

present,  he  yet  sank  again,  apparently  in  less  than  five  minutes, 
into  the  most  tranquil  sleep. 

To  one  of  his  sons,  who,  as  he  thought,  was  not  always 
sufficiently  careful  of  making  remarks  which,  though  innocently 
intended,  might  give  offence,  he  said  that  upon  a  certain  occasion 
he  had  himself,  in  speaking  to  a  female  friend,  alluded  to  one  of 
her  features  as  not  handsome  ;  and  that  after  she  had  gone,  his 
wife  blamed  him  for  doing  so,  because  the  lady  in  question  might 
have  received  the  impression  that  he  thought  her  countenance 
disagreeable ;  when  in  reality  there  was  scarce  a  being  in  the 
world,  to  whom  they  were  both  more  attached,  or  upon  whose  face 
they  were  always  more  delighted  to  look  ;  that  this  advice  of  his 
wife,  dictated  by  the  truest  kindness  of  heart,  he  had  often 
reflected  upon,  and,  as  he  hoped,  had  been  benefited  by  it.  He 
then  said,  "  There  is  no  friendship  or  connection  so  intimate  as  to 
justify  a  disregard  of  a  constant  endeavor  to  please;"  and  added 
that  upon  one  occasion,  when  his  wife  had  appeared  in  the  library 
in  a  new  dress,  and  he,  happening  to  be  engaged  in  his  studies, 
had  not  noticed  the  circumstance,  she  seemed  quite  disappointed, 
and  said  to  him,  "  I  purchased  this  dress  on  purpose  to  please  you, 
as  being  of  your  favorite  color,  and  now  you  do  not  seem  to  care 
the  least  about  it."  He  added,  "  I  immediately  left  my  books,  told 
her  she  must  lay  the  blame  not  upon  me,  but  upon  mathematics; 
that  the  dress  suited  my  taste  exactly ;  and  thus  succeeded  in 
restoring  her  cheerful  looks.  And  ever  afterwards,"  said  he, 
"  through  life,  I  endeavored,  whenever  she  came  into  my  presence, 
not  to  omit  to  express  towards  her,  outwardly,  something  of  that 
pleasure  which  I  always  really  felt." 

146  MEMOIR. 

To  another  of  his  sons  he  was  speaking  of  truth  as  never  to 
be  in  the  slightest  degree  or  upon  any  inducement  disregarded,  and 
holding  up  his  finger,  and  repeating  the  words  with  most  solemn 
emphasis,  said,  "  Follow  truth  —  truth  —  truth  !  Let  that  be 
the  family  motto."  So  many,  indeed,  are  the  touching  incidents 
of  his  last  illness  which  throng  upon  the  memory  of  his  children, 
that  a  selection  is  almost  impossible,  where  each  was  such 
an  exhibition  of  moral  greatness.  He  had  expressed  the  wish 
to  be  approached  with  smiles  and  cheerfulness.  Feeling  no 
melancholy  in  his  own  soul,  he  was  averse  to  the  manifestation 
of  it  in  others.  Observing,  therefore,  one  of  his  family  whose 
countenance  was  marked  with  sadness,  he  called  for  his  volume 
of  Bryant,  and  opening  at  his  favorite  piece,  read, 

"  Why  weep  ye,  then,  for  him  who,  having  won 

The  bound  of  man's  appointed  years,  at  last,  — > 
Life's  blessings  all  enjoyed,  life's  labor  done,  — 
Serenely  to  his  final  rest  has  passed  ? " 

He  then  proceeded  to  read  all  the  remaining  lines,  remarking  upon 
each,  that  he  believed  or  hoped  it  was  applicable  to  himself,  or 
that  he  thought  it  not  so.  His  voice,  though  low,  was  throughout 
clear  and  firm,  and  the  incident  was  a  truly  impressive  one. 

Rarely  was  a  complaint  or  murmur  extorted  from  him  even  by 
the  most  excruciating  pain.  One  evening,  as  his  eldest  sons  were 
present,  he  said,  "  Much  as  it  usually  gratifies  me  to  see  you,  your 
presence  now  is  unwelcome.  I  am  suffering  so  much,  that  I 
cannot  enjoy  the  society  of  any  one.  You  can  do  nothing  for  my 
relief.  I  had  rather  you  would  go  home."  On  another  occasion, 
when    the   torture  he  experienced  was  almost    beyond  endurance, 

MEMOIR.  147 

he  exclaimed,  "Why  was  I  born  !  "  After  he  had  obtained  relief, 
one  of  his  sons  asked  him  why  he  had  made  that  remark.  He 
said  that  he  meant,  "  Why  was  I  born  to  suffer  so  much  !  But  I 
see  the  reason.      It  is  that  I  may  be  weaned  from  this  world." 

Happily,  a  few  weeks  before  his  death,  he  had  longer 
intervals  of  ease.  On  one  of  these  occasions,  he  asked  a  son  if 
he  remembered  the  word,  derived  from  the  Greek,  signifying  an 
easy  death.  Being  answered  in  the  negative,  he  said  that  in 
Pope's  Works  there  was  a  letter  from  Dr.  Arbuthnot,  which  he 
had  not  read  for  forty  years,  but  which  he  distinctly  remembered 
as  containing  this  word,  with  a  note  mentioning  that  that 
excellent  man  died  shortly  afterwards ;  so  that  he  had  always 
associated  the  idea  of  an  easy  death  with  that  of  excellence  of 
character.  The  book  was  opened,  and  the  letter  found.  The 
writer  says,  "  A  recovery  in  my  case,  and  at  my  age,  is  impossible. 
The  kindest  wish  of  my  friends  is  euthanasia."  To  this  subject 
he  upon  more  than  one  occasion  afterwards  recurred,  and,  applying 
it  to  his  own  situation,  said,  "  This  is  indeed  euthanasia." 

The  following  is  an  extract  from  the  private  journal  of  his 
third  son,  under  date  March  4,  1838,  recording  a  dialogue  which 
took  place  between  him  and  his  father  :  —  "  He  said,  '  I  have  left 
in  my  will  the  manuscript  of  La  Place  to  the  College.  I  wish 
I  had  not  done  so ;  for  who  will  care  any  thing  about  it  ?  It  is  a 
mere  bagatelle.'  I  told  him  that,  though  in  itself  valueless,  it 
would  be  interesting,  perhaps,  at  some  future  period,  for  the  lover 
of  mathematics  to  look  upon  his  original  manuscript  copy  of  so 
great  a  work.     '  O,'  said  he,  '  the  work  will  soon  become  obsolete, 

148  MEMOIR. 

and  nobody  will  look  at  it.'  —  '  Very  true,  it  xcill  become  obsolete  ; 
and  what  work  is  there  that  will  not  become  old  1  but  still  we  honor 
talent,  even  if  the  labors  of  that  talent  are  superseded  by  later 
writers.'  —  '  Yes,'  replied  father,  '  Archimedes  was  of  the  same 
order  of  talent  with  Newton,  and  we  honor  him  as  much  ;  and 
Leibnitz  was  equal  to  either  of  them.  Euclid  was  a  second-rate 
mathematician ;  yet  I  should  like  to  see  some  of  his  hand-writing. 
My  order  of  talent  is  very  different  from  that  of  La  Place.  La 
Place  originates  things  which  it  would  have  been  impossible  for 
me  to  have  originated.  La  Place  was  of  the  Newton  class  ;  and 
there  is  the  same  difference  between  La  Place  and  myself  as 
between  Archimedes  and   Euclid.'  "  * 

Not  less  interesting  were  many  incidents  which  occurred  during 
his  interviews  with  others.  A  young  lady  had  been  playing,  by  his 
desire,  upon  a  harmonicon.      As  the  strains  of  the  music  rose  and 

*  A  similar  anecdote  is  mentioned  by  Mr.  Young,  (Eulogy,  p.  83,)  of  Dr.  Bowditch's 
admitting  La  Place  to  be  altogether  his  superior,  and  saying,  "  I  hope  I  know  as  much  about 
mathematics  as  Playfair."  The  word  hope  is  probably  a  verbal  mistake  for  think,  since  the 
expression  otherwise  seems  to  imply  a  disrespect  for  Playfair,  such  as  Dr.  Bowditch  did 
not  entertain,  and  to  which,  therefore,  he  could  not,  as  we  believe,  have  given  utterance. 

Dr.  Bowditch  was  always  of  opinion  that  men  are  born  with  the  same  diversities  of 
intellectual,  as  of  physical  powers  and  stature.  Thus  he  would  speak  of  one  as  "  a  man  of 
small  calibre,"  and  say  of  another  that  he  had  reached  his  "couche  de  niveau."  And  he 
considered  as  wholly  absurd  a  remark  once  made  in  his  hearing,  "  I  have  no  doubt  that  any 
man  could  become  a  mathematician  if  he  only  had  time!"  It  seemed  indeed,  in  his  own 
case,  that  he  became  a  mathematician  notwithstanding  the  leant  of  time  ;  and  a  striking 
contrast  is  exhibited  by  Mr.  Pickering,  (Eulogy,  p.  56,)  between  the  long  life  of  La  Place, 
exclusively  devoted  to  the  pursuit  of  science,  and  the  comparatively  short  life  of  his  translator, 
of  which  so  much  was  occupied  by  other  important  engagements. 

MEMOIR.  !49 

fell  upon  the  ear,  like  that  of  the  iEolian  harp,  he  listened 
intently ;  and  when  the  last  cadence  had  died  away,  and  the 
musician  approached  to  take  her  leave,  he  gave  her  an  affectionate 
greeting,  and  after  she  had  retired  said,  "You  must  tell  her  that 
she  has  been  playing  my  dirge."  A  lady  visited  him,  and  as  she 
was  quitting  the  apartment,  he  said,  "  Good  night,"  twice, 
with  a  tone  of  voice,  and  an  expression  of  countenance,  which 
indicated  his  conviction  that  he  saw  her  for  the  last  time ; 
and  then  he  immediately  added,  "  Good  morning  at  the 

Exactly  a  week  before  his  death,  the  President  of  Harvard 
College,  Mr.  Quincy,  had  an  interview  with  him,  the  following 
account  of  which  he  reduced  to  writing  immediately  afterwards : 
—  He  says,  "  I  found  him  sitting  in  his  chair,  in  his  library, 
emaciated,  pale,  and  apparently  wasted  by  his  disease  to  the  last 
stage  of  life ;  his  mind  clear,  active,  and  self-possessed.  He 
spoke  of  his  disorder  as  incurable  ;  that  he  felt  himself  gradually 
sinking,  and  that  he  could  not  long  survive.  '  I  have  wished  to 
see  you,'  said  he,  '  to  take  my  leave,  and  that  you  might  have  the 
satisfaction  of  knowing  that  I  depart  willingly,  cheerfully,  and, 
as  I  hope,  prepared.  From  my  boyhood,  my  mind  has  been 
religiously  impressed.  I  never  did  or  could  question  the  existence 
of  a  Supreme  Being,  and  that  he  took  an  interest  in  the  affairs 
of  men.  I  have  always  endeavored  to  regulate  my  life  in 
subjection  to  his  will,  and  studied  to  bring  my  mind  to  an 
acquiescence  in  his  dispensations  ;  and  now,  at  its  close,  I  look 
back  with  gratitude  for  the  manner  in  which  He  has  distinguished 

vol.  iv.  n  n 

150  MEMOIR. 

me,  and  for  the  many  blessings  of  my  lot.  As  to  creeds  of  faith, 
I  have  always  been  of  the  sentiment  of  the  poet,  — 

For  modes  of  faith  let  graceless  zealots  fight ; 
His  can't  be  wrong,  whose  life  is  in  the  right.'  "  * 

Then  he  alluded  to  the  lines  of  Hafiz,  before  mentioned,  saying 
of  them,  "  '  They  are  lines  of  which  I  at  this  moment  feel  all 
the  force  and  consolation.  I  can  only  say,  Mr.  Quincy,  that  I 
am  content ;  that  I  go  willingly,  resigned,  and  satisfied.'  t  After 
this  he  spoke  to  me  of  his  works,  his  gratification  that  the  four 
first  volumes,  which  constituted  the  principal  work,  were  so  nearly 
completed.  '  There  are  only  about  ten  pages  wanting  ;  perhaps 
I  may  live  to  finish  them.  I  have  been  to-day  correcting  the 
proofs.'  He  then  showed  me  his  will,  explained  his  motives,  asked 
me  to  read  it,  and  my  opinion.  In  every  respect,  his  state  of 
mind  was  such  as  at  such  a  moment  his  best  friends  could  have 
wished,  —  calm,  collected,  rational,  resigned,  —  looking  confidently 
for  an  existence  beyond  the  grave,  —  happy  in  reflecting  on 
the  past,  and  in  anticipating  the  future.  On  taking  leave,  he 
impressed  a  kiss  on  my  hand,  saying,  '  Farewell ! ' '      On  another 

*  Dr.  Bowditch  often  repeated  passages  from  Pope's  "  Essay  on  Man  "  and  "  Universal 

-j-  The  following  lines,  which  he  had  also  copied  on  the  covers  of  his  portfolio,  are 
strikingly  applicable  to  the  frame  of  mind  which  he  now  manifested :  — 

"  Parent  of  nature,  Master  of  the  world, 
Where'er  thy  providence  directs,  behold 
My  steps  with  cheerful  resignation  turn. 
Fate  leads  the  willing,  drags  the  backward  on. 
Why  should  I  grieve,  when  grieving  I  must  bear; 
Or  take  with  guilt,  what  guiltless  I  might  share?" 

Cleanthes,  translated  by  Bolingbroke.      Orig.  Epist.  107. 

MEMOIR.  151 

occasion,  he  mentioned  the  early  impression  made  on  his  mind  by 
the  remark  of  a  Quaker  lady,  that  the  external  symbols  and 
observances  of  religion  were  only  valuable  as  indicating  the 
existence  of  an  inward  principle,  and -a  life  in  accordance  with  it. 

Among  those,  also,  who  had  the  happiness  of  a  like  interview, 
were  two  of  his  subsequent  Eulogists ;  one  of  whom  (Judge 
White)  says,  "  Being  deeply  affected  by  his  whole  appearance  and 
conversation,  and  absorbed  in  the  feelings  which  these  produced,  I 
could  not  retain  much  of  the  language  which  he  uttered,  though 
the  general  impression  of  what  he  said  was  indelibly  fixed  in  my 
mind.  I  recollect,  however,  very  distinctly  his  expressions  in 
speaking  of  his  early  and  deep  feeling  of  religious  truth  and 
accountability.  '  I  cannot  remember,'  he  said,  '  when  I  had  not 
this  feeling,  and  when  I  did  not  act  from  it,  or  endeavor  to.  In 
my  boyish  days,  when  some  of  my  companions,  who  had  become 
infected  with  Tom  Paine's  *  infidelity,  broached  his  notions  in 
conversation  with  me,  I  battled  it  with  them  stoutly,  not  exactly 
with  the  logic  you  would  get  from  Locke,  but  with  the  logic  I 
found  here,  (pointing  to  his  breast;)  and  here  it  has  always  been 
my  guide  and  support :  it  is  my  support  still.'  With  feelings  of 
humility  inseparable  from  the  purest  minds  in  such  a  situation, 
he  expressed    the  satisfaction  which  he    felt  from    having  always 

endeavored  to  do  his  duty '  My  whole  life,'  he  said,  '  has  been 

crowned  with  blessings  beyond  my  deserts.  I  am  still  surrounded 
with  blessings  unnumbered.       Why  should  I  distrust  the  goodness 

*  The  well-known  "  Age  of  Reason,"  by  Thomas  Paine,  was  a  work  which  at  that  time 
had  many  readers  in  the  community. 

152  MEMOIR. 

of  God?     Why  should    I    not   still  be    grateful    and    happy,    and 
confide  in  his  goodness?'     And  indeed  why  should  he  not?"* 

In  his  interview  with  the  other,  (Rev.  Mr.  Young,)  he  dwelt 
much  upon  the  kindness  and  assistance  which  in  early  life  he  had 
received  in  Salem,  and  expressed  a  like  affection  and  gratitude 
towards  the  city  in  which  he  was  to  end  his  days.  Mr.  Young 
says  that  every  one  of  the  friends  who  then  visited  him  "  will  bear 
testimony  to  his  calm,  serene  state  of  mind.  The  words  which 
he  spoke  in  those  precious  interviews  they  will  gather  up  and 
treasure  in  their  memory,  and  will  never  forget  them  so  long  as 
they  live."  t 

Durino-  his  illness,  Dr.  Bowditch  was  asked  to  state  his 
particular  religious  belief,  and  replied,  —  "  Of  what  importance 
are  my  opinions  to  any  one  ?  I  do  not  wish  to  be  made  a  show 
of."  When  mention  was  made  of  the  various  teachers  of  mankind, 
inspired  and  others,  (Socrates,  Moses,  &c.,)  at  the  name  of  Christ, 
he  said,  "  Yes  —  the  greatest  of  them  all."  He  dwelt  often  upon 
the  fitness  of  the  gospel  to  purify  the  heart  and  elevate  the  soul ; 
and  preferred  to  rest  its  authority  upon  these  views,  rather  than 
upon  any  other.  A  recent  article  in  the  Christian  Examiner,  upon 
the  point  that  a  belief  in  miracles  is  not  essential  to  a  belief  in 
Christianity,  received  his  approbation. 

The  Rev.  John  Brazer,  D.  D.,  of  Salem,  was  a  friend  who 
rarely  visited  Boston  without  passing  the  night  under  his  roof,  and 

•  Eulogy,  p.  53.  t  Discourse,  p.  94. 

MEMOIR.  153 

whose  own  house  had  often  had  as  an  inmate  for  several  weeks 
a  daughter  of  Dr.  Bowditch.  He,  during  the  last  illness  of  the 
latter,  offered  up  for  him  within  his  church  a  prayer  which,  in  the 
words  of  a  correspondent,  "  touched  all  hearts."  More  than  one 
interview  left  his  mind  also  filled  with  the  same  delightful 
impressions.  In  one  of  them,  Dr.  Bowditch,  after  alluding  to  the 
intimacy  which  existed  between  themselves,  and  also  between 
himself  and  certain  absent  friends,  observed  that  he  felt  himself 
"  capable  of  faithful  friendship."  And  in  a  brief  public  notice  of 
his  decease,  this  clergyman  observes,  "  And  so  he  was,  in  a  degree 
never  surpassed.  Aching  hearts  can  now  testify  to  this ;  and 
there  are  some  who  feel  that  there  is  a  void  left  in  their  affections, 
which  can  only  be  filled  by  a  reunion  with  him  in  another  world." 
Dr.  Bowditch  had  requested  his  children  to  send  to  Dr.  Brazer  a 
small  legacy,  saying,  "  I  know  that  it  will  be  grateful  to  my  friend 
to  be  assured  that  I  thought  of  him  with  unabated  love  and 
confidence  in  my  dying  moments." 

He  had  through  life  delighted  to  attend  to  the  interests  and 
feelings  of  many  who  were  comparatively  alone  in  the  world ;  and 
for  these  services,  they  now  expressed  the  warmest  gratitude.  A 
short  time  before  his  death,  he  received  from  a  young  lady  who, 
being  herself  an  invalid,  could  not  in  person  express  her  sentiments 
towards  him,  a  letter,  in  which  she  addresses  him  as  "  her 
dear  father,"  and  assures  him  that  "  his  kindness  fell  not  upon 
stony  ground,  when  it  fell  upon  an  orphan's  heart;"  and  the 
last  person  who  had  an  interview  with  him,  (except  the  members 
of  his  own  family,)  was  another  lady,  before  alluded  to,  (p.  143,) 
who  expressed  the  delight  which  it  had  afforded  her,  and  said  that 

154  MEMOIR. 

she  never  could  have  been  happy  if  he  had  died  without  her 
having  had  an  opportunity  of  acknowledging  her  many  and  great 
obligations  to  the  best  of  friends. 

He  himself  literally  never  forgot  a  kindness.  Thus  he 
enjoined  it  on  his  children  to  transmit  a  legacy  from  him  to  the 
widow  of  one  of  his  early  employers,  as  being  his  oldest  friend, 
"one  whose  affection  had  ever  been  to  him  as  that  of  a  mother, 
knowing  no  interruption  or  abatement."  And  he  remembered 
in  a  similar  manner  a  near  relative,  from  whom  he  had  always 
received  a  sister's  welcome  when  he  visited   Salem. 

One  little  being  alone  stood  to  him  in  the  relation  of  a 
grandchild,  the  daughter  of  his  eldest  son.  Desirous  of  leaving 
for  her  some  small  token  of  his  remembrance,  a  silver  cup  was 
made  by  his  directions,  bearing  the  inscription,  "  Elizabeth  Francis 
Bowditch,  from  her  grandfather,  Nathaniel  Bowditch,  March  1st, 
1838,"  which,  a  day  or  two  afterwards,  he  placed  in  her  own  hands. 
Though  the  image  of  that  affectionate  relative  has  long  since 
faded  away  from  her  infant  memory,  that  visihle  emblem  will  in 
after  years  remind  her  of  one  who,  on  the  day  of  his  death,  when 
his  failing  senses  led  him  erroneously  to  believe  that  he  was 
addressing  her  mother,  said,   "  Give  my  love  to  the  little  one." 

There  was  one  who  was  a  sister  to  him  by  marriage,  as  she 
had  always  been  in  affection.  Her  daily  visits  during  his  illness 
were  ever  most  welcome.  She  was  a  wife,  and  is  a  widow ; 
was  a  mother,  and  is  childless.  She  asked  him  his  belief  in  a 
recognition  of  friends  after  death.       He  said  to  her,  that,  to  his 

MEMOIR.  155 

apprehension,  it  was  not  clearly  revealed.  She  exclaimed,  "Do 
not  say  so.  The  chief  consolation  I  have  here,  is  the  hope  of 
meeting  my  lost  ones  again."  He  saw  her  grief  as  she  retired, 
and  in  the  course  of  that  day  told  his  family  to  be  sure  to  inform 
him  when  she  next  called,  as  he  wished  much  to  see  her.  She 
came  again.  He  said  to  her,  "  Let  me  assure  you  of  my 
conviction  that  if,  in  the  future  world,  it  will  be  best  that  we 
should  know  again  the  friends  we  have  here  loved,  that  happiness 
will  certainly  be  ours.  What  I  meant  to  say  yesterday  was,  that 
I  do  not  think  that  Almighty  Wisdom  has  explicitly  revealed  to 
mortals  its  decrees  in  this  particular.  But  of  one  thing  I  am 
certain  ;  all  will  be  for  the  best.  I  approach  the  unseen  world 
with  the  same  reverence  as  I  would  the  Holy  of  Holies,  and 
have  no  desire  to  draw  aside  the  veil  which  conceals  its  mysteries 
from  my  sight." 

He  had  always  entertained  a  most  important  as  well  as  just 
sentiment,  to  which  he  constantly  recurred  during  his  illness, 
namely,  that  the  highest  intellectual  cultivation  and  acquirements 
are  entirely  worthless,  when  compared  with  moral  excellence. 
Often  have  we  heard  the  author  of  this  Commentary,  during 
his  last  days,  say  that  the  consciousness  which  he  then  felt  that 
throughout  life  he  had  endeavored  to  discharge  its  various  duties, 
and  the  humble  hope  that  those  efforts  would  be  approved 
hereafter,  were  far  sweeter  to  him  than  any  praises  which  he  had 
already  received,  or  the  thoughts  of  any  reputation  which  might 
await  his  name  in  future  times  as  having  been  a  faithful  laborer 
in  the  cause  of  science. 

156  MEMOIR. 

Indeed,  he  valued  his  own  peculiar  studies  for  their  elevating 
moral  tendency,  and  for  producing,  as  it  were,  an  indirect  effect, 
more  important  and  lasting  than  their  immediate  results.  Thus, 
a  few  days  only  before  he  died,  he  listened  with  attention  and 
pleasure  to  a  recent  publication  of  Mrs.  Sigourney,  as  it  was  read 
to  him  by  his  eldest  son,  where  that  writer  says,  "  The  adoring 
awe  and  profound  humility  inspired  by  the  study  of  the  planets 
and  their  laws,  the  love  of  truth  which  he  cherishes  who  pursues 
the  science  that  demonstrates,  will  find  a  response  among 

His  own  life,  indeed,  which  had  been  spent  in  search  of  the 
true  and  the  right,  had  led  to  that  unwavering  belief  and  trust 
in  the  wise  providence  of  God,  and  that  humble  and  confiding 
submission  to  his  will,  which  dispelled  from  the  chamber  of  death 
the  gloom  which  so  often  enshrouds  it.  His  eye  shone  with 
its  wonted  brightness.  His  feeble  voice  inculcated,  in  its  low 
and  scarcely  audible  accents,  its  lessons  of  wisdom  and  love,  with 
an  earnestness  and  solemnity  that  seemed  almost  like  inspiration, 
and  spoke  to  the  hearts  of  his  hearers.  Though  his  emaciated 
countenance  told  of  many  an  hour  of  severe  pain,  the  patient 
sufferer  recalled  the  blessings  he  had  enjoyed  through  life,  and 
gratefully  acknowledged  those  which  still  surrounded  him.  He 
was  often,  during  his  intervals  of  ease,  playful  and  humorous  in 
his  remarks,  but  without  any  levity  of  thought  or  manner.  He 
did  not  affect  any  indifference  to  life,  but  was  perfectly  willing  to 
quit  it.       His  was 

"  Earth's  lingering  love,  to  parting  reconciled." 

MEMOIR.  157 

He  approached  his  end  with  feelings  the  most  becoming  to  the 
man  and  the  Christian.  His  spirit  was  perfected  by  the  sufferings 
through  wbicli  he  passed.  Truly  we  esteem  it  a  high  privilege  to 
have  been  present  at  such  scenes.  May  the  lesson  of  his  life 
and  his  death  be  read  by  us  aright ! 

On  the  morning  of  Friday,  the  sixteenth  of  March,  at  about 
six  o'clock,  when  his  sight  was  quite  dim,  his  third  son  told  him 
that  he  thought  the  time  had  come  when  he  had  better  take  leave 
of  all  his  children.  He  answered,  "  I  know  it ;  I  feel  it."  Each 
in  succession  then  approached  ;  and  as  the  father  returned  the  kiss 
he  received,  he  inquired  who  it  was  ;  and  in  this  manner  he  took 
a  most  affectionate  farewell  of  his  children,  all  of  whom  were 
gathered  around  his  bedside.  He  said,  ,'  O  !  sweet  and  pretty 
are  the  visions  that  rise  up  before  me.  '  Now  let  thy  servant 
depart  in  peace,  for  mine  eyes  have  seen  thy  salvation.'  I  say 
these  words  not  because  I  have  entire  love  for  all  the  *  .  .  .  .  but 
because  I  love  the  words,  and  feel  kindly  towards  all  *  .  .  .  ." 
Upon  drinking  a  little  water,  he  said,  "How  delicious!  I  have 
swallowed  a  drop  —  a  drop  from 

'  Siloa's  brook,  that  flowed 
Fast  by  the  oracle  of  God.' " 

Soon  after  this  time,  he  fell  into  a  tranquil  sleep,  from  which, 
at  about  half  past  nine,  he  awoke,  and  once  more  desired  to  see 
his  family  assembled ;  then,  looking  round  upon  them,  and 
addressing  each  by  name,  he  said,  "  There,  my  children,  I  have 
known  you  all ;  have  I  not,  perfectly  ?     O  !  it  is  beautiful  to  me 

*  His  voice  here  became  wholly  indistinct. 

VOL.   IV.  p  p 

158  MEMOIR. 

to  see  you  all  about  me  —  pretty  !  It  is  beautiful  to  me  to  bless 
you  all.  May  God  forever  bless  you,  my  dears  !  It  is  for  the 
last  time  that  your  father  blesses  you."  It  pleased  Heaven,  after 
this,  to  afflict  him  with  the  most  severe  hodily  suffering  during 
nearly  three  hours  ;  but  about  noon  it  left  him,  and  the  quiet, 
tranquil  state  of  body  and  mind  returned.  He  addressed  his 
son  with  the  epithet  "  my  dear,"  and  said,  "  It  is  coming !  I 
am  ready."  And  at  one  o'clock,  Death  gently  set  his  seal  upon 
that  placid  countenance. 

He  was  buried  on  the  morning  of  the  following  Sabbath.  The 
face  of  spring  was  hidden  by  the  falling  snow.  The  streets  of 
the  city  were  silent  and  deserted.  Every  thing  seemed  to  feel 
the  quiet  of  the  day  and  hour.  Dust  was  given  back  to  dust : 
the  spirit  had  returned  to  God  who  gave  it. 


We  have  thought  that  a  few  particulars  respecting  the  library  of  Dr. 
Bowditch,  and  its  future  intended  appropriation,  might  be  of  some  general 
interest.  Montaigne  has  said  of  the  apartment  which  contained  his  books, 
that  he  endeavored  "  to  sequester  this  corner  from  all  society,  conjugal,  filial, 
and  civil."  Dr.  Bowditch,  however,  did  exactly  the  reverse  ;  he  selected  for 
his  library  the  family  parlor.  To  us  it  will  always  be  the  scene  of  the  most 
happy  associations.  It  will  ever  present  one  common  centre  of  attraction, 
bringing  our  hearts  near  together,  and  uniting  us  in  the  close  and  intimate 
circle  of  brotherhood.  It  will  recall  a  husband  never  so  much  immersed  in  his 
studious  researches,  as  to  be  forgetful  of  those  little  proofs  of  affection  which 
first  won  and  ever  secured  in  return  the  affections  of  the  wife  ;  and  a  wife 
never  so  much  occupied  with  household  duties  and  cares,  as  to  neglect  for  a 
moment  the  kindest  and  most  considerate  attentions  which  woman's  love  ever 
prompted.  A  father's  advice,  also,  and  a  mother's  gentleness,  will  speak  to  us 
from  the  inanimate  objects  around.  There  the  present  will  be  full  of  the  past. 
Nor  will  it  be  without  its  interest  to  many  others.  Who,  indeed,  that  has  ever 
seen  Dr.  Bowditch  in  that  library,  will  fail  to  acknowledge  the  truth  as  well  as 
beauty  of  the  description  given  by  one  who  was  himself  only  an  occasional,  but 
always  a  welcome  visiter  there  :  —  "  You  saw  the  Philosopher,  entering,  with 
all  the  enthusiasm  of  youth,  into  every  subject  of  passing  interest.  You  saw 
his  eye  kindle  with  honest  indignation,  or  light  up  with  sportive  glee;  you 
caught  the  infection  of  his  quick,  sharp-toned,  good-natured  laugh,  and  felt 
inclined  to  rub  your  hands  in  unison  with  him  at  every  sally  of  wit,  or  every 

160  MEMOIR. 

outbreaking  of  mirthfulness.  Let  the  conversation  turn  in  which  way  it  might, 
he  was  always  prepared  to  take  the  lead  ;  he  always  seemed  to  enter  into  it 
with  a  keener  zest  than  any  one  else.  You  were  charmed  and  delighted  ;  the 
evening  passed  away  before  you  were  aware,  and  you  did  not  reflect,  until  you 
had  returned  home,  that  you  had  been  conversing  with  unrestrained  freedom 
with  the  first  Philosopher  in  America."  * 

Though,  of  course,  it  cannot  have  the  same  degree  of  interest  to  others, 
which  is  felt  by  the  children  of  the  deceased,  we  are  confident,  then,  that 
all  who  have  ever  been  favored  with  an  interview  like  that  above  described, 
will  be  happy  to  learn  that  it  is  our  hope  and  expectation,  that  for  very  many 
years  that  apartment  will  remain  as  it  was  left  by  our  father ;  that  the  chair 
in  which  he  sat,  the  desk  and  the  portfolio  containing  the  last  proofs  of  this 
work  which  were  ever  submitted  to  him,  the  table  around  which  were 
usually  seated  his  family  and  friends,  and  the  noble  array  of  works  of  science 
which  adorn  the  walls  of  the  apartment,  will  all  long  remain  undisturbed. 
That  collection  is  one  which,  in  its  particular  department,  we  believe  to  be 
unsurpassed,  and  probably  unequalled,  by  any  in  the  United  States ;  and  as 
no  one  of  our  number  has  in  any  considerable  degree  inherited  the  peculiar 
tastes  of  his  father,  it  is  obvious  that  to  us  it  will  be  of  but  little  practical 
utility.  But  we  knew  that  he  himself  always  freely  lent  his  books  to 
every  one  having  a  fondness  for  scientific  pursuits,  and  who  had  not  the  means 
of  otherwise  obtaining  them.  We  remembered,  also,  that  a  free  diffusion 
of  knowledge  was,  indeed,  ever  the  chief  object  of  his  own  life ;  and  we 
have  dedicated  "  The  Bowditch  Library  "  to  the  use  of  the  public,  as  far  as, 
in  the  exercise  of  a  sound  discretion,  we  deemed  consistent  with  the  safety 
of  the  books  loaned. 

Many  of  the  most  rare  and  valuable  works  in  this  library  were  presents  to 

•  President  Wayland,  of  Brown  University.     Christian  Review,  September,   1838. 


Dr.  Bowditch  from  various  societies  or  authors  in  other  countries,  —  a 
circumstance  which  adds  greatly  to  the  interest  of  the  collection  ;  and  we 
feel  assured  that,  containing  all  the  volumes  which  he  habitually  consulted 
while  preparing  this  work,  and  also  all  the  manuscript  proofs  of  his  early 
industry,  this  library  will,  as  long  as  it  shall  exist,  remain  a  most  interesting 
monument  to  the  memory  alike  of  the  Ship-Chandler's  Apprentice,  and  the 
Commentator  upon  La  Place. 


Note  to  page  28. 

Dr.  Bowditch,  in  his  last  illness,  in  answer  to  the  direct  question  of  the  writer,  replied 
that  he  had  made  sir  voyages  ;  and  the  anecdote  respecting  his  being  in  Boston  in  July, 
1802,  attending  to  his  vessel,  which  was  wind-bound,  seems  to  favor  the  supposition  of 
another  voyage  besides  the  five  mentioned  in  the  text.  We  find,  however,  that  the  ship  Astrea, 
Stanwood  master,  arrived  in  Boston,  from  Batavia  and  the  Isle  of  France,  July  10,  1802. 
One  who  was  an  inmate  of  his  family  from  the  time  of  his  second  marriage,  October,  1800, 
says  that  he  made  but  one  voyage  afterwards.  Of  that  the  journal  is  extant,  to  speak  for  itself, 
beginning  November,  1802.      So  that  we  believe  the  text  to  be  correct. 

Note  to  page  60. 

There  are  extant  several  portraits  of  Dr.  Bowditch  :  — 

1.  There  are  two  miniatures,  taken  at  the  times  of  his  first  and  second  marriage, 
apparently  by  the  same  artist.      They  have  no  merit  either  as  likenesses  or  paintings. 

2.  About  the  year  1820,  portraits  of  Dr.  Bowditch  and  his  wife  were  painted  by  James 
Frothingham  of  Salem,  which,  though  wanting  in  expression,  are  yet  in  other  respects  very 
good.  It  was  from  his  portrait  of  Mrs.  Bowditch,  that,  after  death,  Miss  Lalanne  painted  for 
the  writer  the  miniature  which  is  engraved  for  this  memoir ;  certain  alterations  being  introduced, 
which  have  made  the  likeness  more  accurate. 

vol.  iv.  q  q 

162  MEMOIR. 

3.  The  portrait  by  Gilbert  Stuart  was  painted  in  1828,  and,  even  in  its  unfinished  state, 
is,  we  think,  far  superior  to  any  other.  A  friend,  who  admired  it  very  much,  and  selected  the 
frame  for  it,  has  written  on  the  back,  "  The  last  work  of  Stuart.  '  Sancte  inviolateque 
servatum  sit.'  " 

4.  The  portraits  belonging  to  the  Salem  East  India  Marine  Society  and  the  Salem 
Marine  Society,  are  by  Charles  Osgood,  having  been  copied  by  him  from  Stuart's  picture, 
with  the  aid  of  a  few  additional  sittinsfs. 

Note  to  page  69. 

In  the  farewell  address  of  his  Royal  Highness  the  Duke  of  Sussex,  the  President, 
delivered  at  the  last  anniversary  meeting  of  the  Royal  Society  of  London,  November,  1S38, 
an  outline  is  given  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  life,  with  the  following  summary  of  the  merits  of  this 
Translation  and  Commentary  :  — 

"  Every  person  who  is  acquainted  with  the  original  must  be  aware  of  the  great  number 
of  steps  in  the  demonstrations  which  are  left  unsupplied,  in  many  cases  comprehending  the 
entire  processes  which  connect  the  enunciation  of  the  propositions  with  the  conclusions ; 
and  the  constant  reference  which  is  made,  both  tacit  and  expressed,  to  results  and  principles, 
both  analytical  and  mechanical,  which  are  co-extensive  with  the  entire  range  of  known 
mathematical  science :  but  in  Dr.  Bowditch's  very  elaborate  Commentary  every  deficient 
step  is  supplied,  every  suppressed  demonstration  is  introduced,  every  reference  explained 
and  illustrated  ;  and  a  work  which  the  labors  of  an  ordinary  life  could  hardly  master,  is 
rendered  accessible  to  every  reader  who  is  acquainted  with  the  principles  of  the  differential 
and  integral  calculus,  and  in  possession  of  even  an  elementary  knowledge  of  statical  and 
dynamical  principles. 

"  When  we  consider  the  circumstances  of  Dr.  Bowditch's  early  life,  the  obstacles  which 
opposed  his  progress,  the  steady  perseverance  with  which  he  overcame  them,  and  the  courage 
with  which  he  ventured  to  expose  the  mysterious  treasures  of  that  sealed  book,  which  had 
hitherto  only  been  approached  by  those  whose  way  had  been  cleared  for  them  by  a  systematic 
and  regular  mathematical  education,  we  shall  be  fully  justified  in  pronouncing  him  to  have 
been  a  most  remarkable  example  of  the  pursuit  of  knowledge  under  difficulties,  and  well 
worthy  of  the  enthusiastic  respect  and  admiration  of  his  countrymen,  whose  triumphs  in  the 
field  of  practical  science  have  fully  equalled,  if  not  surpassed,  the  noblest  works  of  the  ancient 


Note  to  page  82. 

The  following  are  the  children  of  Dr.  Bowditch,  mentioned  in  the  order  of  their  ages  :  — 

1.  Nathaniel  Ingersoll   Bowditch,  a  graduate  of  Harvard  College,  1822,  is  engaged  in 
the  practice  of  the  law  in  Boston. 

2.  Jonathan  Ingersoll  Bowditch,  having  made  a  number  of  India  voyages,  is  now  president 
of  the  American  Insurance  Company  in  Boston. 

3.  Henry  Ingersoll  Bowditch,  a  graduate  of  Harvard  College,  1828,  having  pursued  the 
study  of  medicine,  is  now  established  in  that  profession  in  Boston. 

4.  Charles  Ingersoll  Bowditch,  born  December  1,  1809,  died  February  21,  1S20. 

5.  A  son,  born  July  7,  1813,  died  the  next  day. 

6.  Mary  Ingersoll  Bowditch. 

7.  William  Ingersoll  Bowditch,  a  graduate  of  Harvard  College,   1838,  now  a  student 

at  law. 

8.  Elizabeth  Boardman  Ingersoll  Bowditch. 

Note  to  page  108. 

We  have  said  that  Mr.  Young's  Discourse  contains  some  trifling  errors.  Prepared  in  the 
course  of  a  few  weeks,  it  could  hardly  have  been  otherwise.  Upon  several  points,  we 
ourselves  were  at  first  mistaken.  In  justice  to  him,  it  is  proper  to  specify  these  errors,  that 
no  vague  impression  of  general  inaccuracy  may  be  left  on  the  reader's  mind.  It  is  incorrectly 
said,  in  p.  23  of  his  Discourse,  that  Dr.  Bowditch's  instructer  was  an  Irishman  named  Ford, 
and  that  when  he  solved  the  problem  so  quickly,  he  was  actually  punished  for  lying;  in  p.  39, 
that  he  learned  French  without  an  instructer ;  and  in  p.  59,  that  his  knowledge  of  navigation 
was  picked  up  during  the  intervals  of  his  voyages.  The  anecdote  in  p.  51,  of  the  report 
that  "La  Place  once  remarked,  '  I  am  sure  that  Dr.  Bowditch  comprehends  my  work,  for  he 
has  not  only  detected  my  errors,  but  has  also  shown  me  how  I  came  to  fall  into  them,'  " 
may  be  correct ;  but  Dr.  Bowditch  never  heard  of  it.  The  statement  in  p.  68,  of  his  entire 
abstinence  from  politics,  is  correct  only  of  the  latter  part  of  his  life.  Such  was  his  political 
zeal  in  early  life,  that  he  once  assisted  in  carrying  an  invalid  upon  his  bed  to  the  polls  to  vote. 
The  anecdote  in  p.  87,  respecting  his  magnanimity  in  giving  up  the  benefit  of  his  chart  of 
Salem  to  one  who  had  endeavored  to  appropriate  it  wrongfully  to  himself,  is  related  as  it  was  at 
first  told  to  us;  but  we  are  satisfied,  from  subsequent  inquiries,  that  there  was  but  one  interview 

164  MEMOIR. 

between  the  parties,  and  that  the  account,  though  it  has  a  basis  of  truth,  is  probably  very  much 
exaggerated.  So  in  the  anecdote,  p.  33,  respecting  his  solution  of  a  question  proposed  by 
an  Englishman  while  at  the  theatre,  it  is  not  true  that  he  proposed  in  return  one  which  the 
latter  could  not  solve  ;  as  is  proved  by  a  written  account  of  this  incident  entered  by  Dr. 
Bowditch  in  one  of  his  common-place  books  at  the  time.  In  page  88,  it  is  said  that  he, 
latterly,  usually  took  one  glass  of  wine  after  dinner,  and  another  in  the  evening ;  and 
seldom  or  never  more.     He  took  two  glasses  at  each  time,  which  he  called  his  certain  quantity. 

Notwithstanding  the  numerous  details  and  anecdotes  collected  by  Mr.  Young,  it  is  believed 
that  the  above  are  all  the  matters  stated  by  him,  relating  to  Dr.  Bowditch,  which  require 
correction  or  qualification. 

We  have  not  thought  it  necessary  to  quote  from  this  Discourse,  in  cases  where  the  original 
information  was  obtained  from  conversations  with  us,  or  where  the  same  materials  were 
placed  by  others  at  the  disposal  both  of  Mr.  Young  and  ourselves.  A  statement  of  some  of 
these  sources  of  information,  will  enable  the  reader  to  judge  of  the  relative  authenticity  of 
different  parts  of  the  present  memoir.  During  some  months  before  the  removal  of  the 
family  from  Salem,  the  writer,  having  a  taste  for  antiquarian  researches,  spent  several  leisure 
hours  of  each  day  in  examining  the  public  records  and  other  sources  of  information,  for 
the  purpose  of  tracing  back  his  ancestry  to  the  first  settlement  of  that  town.  One  of 
our  number  went  to  Salem  the  week  after  his  father's  death,  where  he  remained  during 
several  days,  making  inquiries  of  those  who  had  formerly  been  most  nearly  connected  by 
business  or  friendship  with  the  deceased.  He  invited  Mr.  Young  to  join  him  in  a  visit  to 
Danvers,  and  the  latter  was  thus  present  at  the  interview  with  the  relations  of  Dr.  Bowditch's 
first  instructress,  of  which  he  has  given  an  account.  He  likewise  procured  a  drawing 
of  the  house  his  father  there  occupied,  which  Mr.  Young  caused  to  be  engraved  for  his 
Discourse.  Among  others,  Captain  Prince  was  inquired  of  respecting  his  recollections  of  Dr. 
Bowditch.  He  referred  us  to  a  written  account,  containing  anecdotes  of  the  second,  third, 
and  fourth  voyages,  which  his  son  had  drawn  up  a  day  or  two  before,  and  sent  to  Mr. 
Pickering,  (not  taken  down  by  Mr.  Pickering  from  that  gentleman's  own  lips,  as  was  thought 
by  Mr.  Young.)  This  account  was  afterwards  lent  by  Mr.  Pickering  both  to  Mr.  Young  and 
ourselves.  The  original  journals  of  all  Dr.  Bowditch's  voyages,  except  the  second,  are  still 
preserved  in  his  library,  and  verify  the  accuracy  of  Captain  Prince's  dates,  &.c,  given  in  his 
account.  The  whole  series  of  the  successive  editions  of  the  Navigator  are  also  in  the  library, 
the  prefaces  to  which  show  very  clearly  the  most  important  circumstances  connected  with 
the  commencement  and  progress  of  that  work.  All  Dr.  Bowditch's  occasional  publications 
having  been  collected  and  bound  together  by  him,  we  were  enabled  even  to  add  one  or  two 


to  those  discovered  by  Mr.  Pickering,  who  himself  added  several  to  the  list  given  by  Mr. 
Young.  Dr.  Bowditch's  manuscripts  were  given  to  the  writer  of  the  present  memoir. 
Among  them  is  a  separate  file  of  all  the  letters  received  by  him  relating  to  the  Mecanique 
Celeste,  and  another  containing  all  his  diplomas,  and  letters  offering  him  any  appointments, 
either  of  honor  or  profit.  Every  thing  connected  with  the  printing  of  the  Mecanique 
Celeste,  and  the  management  of  the  Life  Insurance  Company,  and  indeed  most  of  the 
recent  incidents  of  his  life,  are,  it  is  needless  to  say,  within  our  own  personal  knowledge ;  and 
those  of  his  last  illness,  especially,  are  indelibly  impressed  upon  our  memory.  The  information 
which  we  possessed  from  these  various  sources,  we  were  happy  to  communicate  to  Mr.  Young. 
Every  one  who  reads  them  both,  will  perceive  that  in  its  really  important  details,  his 
Discourse  agrees  with  the  present  memoir.  The  summary  of  character  which  is  given  by 
him  we  believe  to  be  a  strikingly  just  one,  and  sufficient,  if  nothing  else  had  ever  been 
written,  to  place  before  the  reader  quite  a  distinct  and  faithful  portrait  of  Dr.  Bowditch. 

Note  to  page  110. 

The  property  left  by  Dr.  Bowditch  at  his  death,  exclusive  of  his  dwelling-house  in  Boston, 
and  the  library,  furniture,  &c,  in  it,  consisted  of  printed  copies  of  this  work, 

valued  in  the  inventory  at $5,000  00 

And  other  personal  estate,  valued  at 31,571  33 

Total, ■ $36,571  38 

166  MEMOIR. 

The    Translator   ■presented  this   Work  to   the  Institutions   and  Individuals   named 
in  the  following  List,  and  perhaps  to  Others  not  known  to  us.* 

American  Academy  of  Arts  and  Sciences,  Boston,  Massachusetts. 

Boston  Athenaeum. 

Salem  Athenaeum. 

Nantucket  Athenaeum. 

Harvard  University,  Camhridge,  Massachusetts. 

Brown  University,  Providence,  Rhode  Island. 

University  of  Vermont,  Burlington,  Vermont. 

Philosophical  Society  held  at  Philadelphia. 

New  York  Philosophical  Society. 

Professor  Adrain,  of  New  Brunswick,  N.  Y. 

Professor  Anderson,  of  New  York. 

Professor  Nulty,  of  Philadelphia. 

John  Pickering,  Esq.,  LL.  D.,  of  Boston,  Massachusetts. 

Professor  Peirce,  of  Harvard  University. 

Professor  Renwick,  of  New  York. 

Professor  Strong,  of  New  Brunswick,   N.   Y. 

Rev.  Francis  Wayland,  D.  D.,  President  of  Brown  University. 

Royal  Society  of  London. 

Royal  Society  of  Edinburgh. 

Royal   Irish   Academy. 

Royal  Astronomical  Society  of  London. 

British  Museum,   London. 

Bodleian  Library,  Oxford. 

"  If  any,  to  whom  the  translator  intended  to  present  it,  have  not  received  the  work,  and  will  inform  us 
of  an  opportunity  of  Bending  it  safely,  it  will  be  forwarded  by  us  according  to  the  wishes  of  our 
deceased  father. 


Trinity  College,  Cambridge. 

George  B.  Airy,  Esq.,  F.  R.   S.,    Professor  at  the  University  of  Cambridge,  England. 

Charles  Babbage,  Esq.,   F.  R.  S.,  London. 

Francis  Baily,  Esq.,  F.  R.  S.,  London. 

Henry  Beaufoy,  Esq.,  South  Lambeth,  London. 

The  late  John  Brinkley,  D.  D.,  Lord  Bishop  of  Cloyne. 

Davies  Gilbert,  Esq.,  F.  R.   S.,  London. 

Sir   William  Hamilton,  F.   R.  S.,  Professor   of  Astronomy  in  the  Royal    Observatory, 

Sir  John  F.   W.   Herschel,  F.   R.   S.,  Slough. 
James   Ivory,   Esq.,  F.  R.  S.,  London. 
John  William  Lubbock,  Esq.,  F.  R.  S.,  London. 
The  late  John  Pond,  Esq.,  F.  R.  S.,  Astronomer  Royal,  Greenwich. 
Mrs.  Mary  Somerville,   Chelsea   Hospital. 
William  Vaughan,   Esq.,  F.  R.  S.,  London. 
Rev.  William.  Whewell,  Professor  at  the  University  of  Cambridge,  England. 

Royal  Asiatic  Society,   Calcutta. 

Imperial  Academy  of  Sciences   at  St.   Petersburg. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  at  Stockholm. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  at  Copenhagen. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  at  Berlin. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  and  Belles  Lettres  at  Palermo. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  and  Belles  Lettres  at  Brussels. 

Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  at  Paris. 

Royal   Library  at  Paris. 

Library  of  the  University  of  Gottingen. 

M.  Arago,  Paris. 

Professor  Bessel,   Konigsberg. 

Professor  Encke,  Berlin. 

The  late  Baron   Fourier,  Paris. 

Professor  Gauss,   Gottingen. 

Professor  Harding,  Gottingen. 

M.  Lacroix,   Paris. 

168  MEMOIR. 

Marquis  de  La  Place,  Paris. 

M.  Legendre,  Paris. 

Signor  Libri,  Paris. 

Baron  Lindenau,  Dresden. 

Dr.  Olbers,  Bremen. 

M.  Poisson,  Paris. 

M.  Puissant,  Paris. 

M.  Schumacher,  Altona. 

Professor  Struve,  Dorpat,  Russia. 

D.  B.  Warden,  Esq.,  Paris. 

The  late  Baron  Zach,  Paris. 

The  Family  of  the   Translator  have  presented  the  Mecanique   Celeste  to  the  following 
Institutions  and  Individuals,  viz. :  — 

Amherst  College,  Massachusetts. 

The  Society  for  the  Encouragement  of  Arts,  Manufactures,  and  Commerce,  London. 
His  Royal  Highness  the  Duke  of  Sussex,  late  President  of  the  Royal  Society. 
The  Right  Honorable  Henry  Lord  Brougham  and  Vaux. 

Francis   Beaufort,   Esq.,   Captain   in   the    Royal   Navy,    Hydrographer  to   the  British 

As  a  Supplement  to  this  Memoir  we  annex  the  following  Letter. 

Boston,  October,  1840. 
Rev.  John  G.  Palfrey,  D.  D. 
Sir  : 

In  your  Eulogy  upon  Dr.  Kirkland,  late  President  of  Harvard 
College,  recently  published,  after  mentioning  his  resignation,  you  proceed  as 
follows : 

"  His  pupils  and  the  public  were  agitated  and  distressed  by  the  currency  of  a  report,  to 
the  effect  that  the  step  was  precipitated  by  his  not  having  been  treated,  in  every  quarter  by 
those  who  acted  with  him,  with  the  delicacy  and  respect  due  to  his  greatness  and  his  infirmity. 
But  if,  among  the  good  men  who  shared  with  him  the  highest  places  of  College  authority,  any 
one  could  for  a  moment  so  unhappily  forget  himself  as  to  offer  disrespect  to  that  venerable 
excellence,  which  in  better  days  it  was  impossible  for  disrespect  to  come  near,  it  was  not  a 
wrong  which  history  has  recorded,  and  it  is  not  one,  therefore,  which  history  has  to  right;  and 
as,  whatever  private  grief  he  may  have  had,  his  magnanimity  did  not  permit  him  to  proclaim  it, 
he  would  not  have  us  choose  this  occasion  for  its  redress.  The  corporation  took  the 
position  which  might  have  been  assuredly  expected,  when,  at  a  meeting  at  which  every  member 
was  present,  a  vote  was  passed,  expressing  '  a  full  sense  of  all  the  benefits  conferred  by  him  on  the 
institution,  over  which,'  it  is  added,  '  he  has  presided  for  so  many  years,  with  singular 
dignity  and  mildness,  raising  its  reputation,  and  increasing  its  usefulness  by  his  splendid  talents 
and  accomplishments,  his  paternal  care,  and  his  faithful  services.'  " 

This  publication  has  in  our  opinion  rendered  necessary  a  few  remarks 
upon  Dr.  Bowditch's  connection  with  Harvard  College. 


When  the  late  President  of  the  University  resigned  his  seat,  having,  for 
several  months,  suffered  from  an  attack  of  paralysis,  it  was  currently  reported 
that  Dr.  Bowditch  had  treated  him,  when  enfeebled  by  disease,  with  a  disre- 
spect upon  which  he  durst  not  otherwise  have  ventured.  He  was  therefore 
denounced  through  the  public  press  as  "  a  Salem  sailor,"  and  called  upon  by 
name  to  retire  from  the  Corporation  of  the  College.  A  charge  so  odious  in 
itself,  and  so  entirely  at  variance  with  the  whole  tenor  of  his  life,  Dr.  Bowditch 
felt  to  be  undeserving  of  any  public  notice  or  refutation.  He  prepared, 
however,  a  manuscript  volume  of  about  150  pages,  entitled  "  Scraps  of  College 
History,"  containing  a  simple  and  exact  narrative  of  all  he  knew  of  College 
affairs,  and  especially  a  statement  of  the  several  measures  of  reform  which  he 
had  felt  it  his  duty  to  introduce  and  to  advocate,  and  the  circumstances  attend- 
ing or  growing  out  of  their  discussion  and  adoption.  His  narrative  he  freely 
showed  to  his  friends,  and  even,  at  last,  found  it  necessary  to  declare  that  if  he 
were  any  longer  thus  assailed,  he  might,  perhaps,  be  induced  to  publish  it — an 
intimation  which  produced  the  desired  effect.  This  was  a  measure  to  which  he 
did  not  wish  to  resort ;  and  he  was  convinced  that  no  true  friend  of  the 
College  or  of  the  President  would  force  it  upon  him.  We  should  willingly 
leave  Dr.  Bowditch's  character  as  a  man,  and  his  claims  as  a  benefactor  of  the 
College  to  be  decided  by  a  perusal  of  this  narrative.  But  we  do  not  feel  that 
its  details  need  now  be  resorted  to.  It  is  sufficient  that  they  enable  us  to 
assert,  and,  if  need  be,  to  prove,  that  the  report  above  mentioned  is  utterly 
false.  To  the  last  moments  of  life  Dr.  Bowditch  continued  to  approve  of  all 
he  had  said  and  done  as  a  member  of  the  Corporation.  Ready,  as  he  always 
was,  to  make  the  most  full  amends  or  apology  for  any  harsh  or  hasty  remark 
or  action,  there  was  not  a  word  or  an  occurrence  in  the  intercourse  between 
himself  and  the  Head  of  the  University,  or  any  one  else  connected  with  its 
management,  which,  had  it  been  in  his  power,  he  would  have  recalled.  While 
Dr.  Kirkland  was  in  perfect  health,  and  possessed  his  mental  powers  in  their 
full  vigor,  Dr.  Bowditch  had  spoken  to  him  with  truth  and  freedom,  and  had 
acted  towards  him  with  energy  and  decision  under  circumstances  peculiarly 
trying  and  painful  —  but  only  when,  where  and  as,  his  sense  of  duty  imperatively 
required.  He  acted  deliberately  and  calmly — never  "unhappily  forgetting 
himself  even  for  a  moment."      When  infirmity  fell  upon  and  obscured  the 


splendid  intellect  of  the  President,  none  who  know  Dr.  Bowditch  need  to  be 
assured  that  it  was  with  greater  reluctance  and  forbearance  than  ever  before, 
that  he  found  himself  still  obliged  to  urge  certain  changes  in  the  administra- 
tion of  the  College.  But  under  such  circumstances  he  could  not  have  treated 
any  one  with  unkindness  or  disrespect. 

Dr.  Bowditch  died  in  the  belief  that  he  had  lived  down  this  calumny. 
Little  could  he  have  anticipated  that  so  soon  after  his  death,  upon  a 
most  solemn  and  public  occasion,  an  individual,  recently  at  the  head  of  one  of 
the  departments  of  the  College,  and  who,  though  not  an  officer  of  the  institu- 
tion at  the  period  alluded  to,  had  yet  the  means  of  knowing  the  truth,  should 
nevertheless  have  seen  fit,  under  the  disguise,  indeed,  of  gentle  insinuations, 
and  the  show  of  much  forbearance,  distinctly  to  allude  to  this  charge  in  a 
manner  which  none  of  his  hearers  could  misunderstand. 

The  mere  insertion  of  this  paragraph  in  the  discourse  when  delivered,  we 
should  not  have  noticed.  But  a  printed  eulogy,  pronounced  by  request  before 
the  Alumni  of  the  University,  detailing  the  character  and  services  of  one  of  its 
most  universally  popular  presidents — may  be  no  ephemeral  publication.  It  may 
exist  to  be  referred  to  by  the  future  historian  of  the  College.  The  industrious 
antiquarian,  a  century  hence,  would  perceive  some  secret  meaning  in  this  para- 
graph, and  would  find  the  mystery  solved  in  the  newspaper  charge  against  Dr. 
Bowditch  distinctly  and  publicly  made,  and  never,  until  now,  distinctly  and 
publicly  denied.  In  a  discourse  like  the  present,  every  assertion  —  every 
insinuation  may,  if  uncontradicted,  thus  become  matter  of  history.  And  if 
wrong  is  done,  "  it  is  a  wrong  which  history  has  to  right." 

We  do,  therefore,  in  reply  to  your  remarks  above  quoted,  make  the 
present  full  and  explicit  denial  of  their  justice  as  applied  to  Dr.  Bowditch. 
We  say  that  a  regard  for  truth,  rather  than  "  magnanimity,"  led  Dr.  Kirkland 
to  refrain  from  making  such  a  charge.  He  had  no  "  private  griefs  "  in  this 
matter  for  any  friend  or  eulogist  to  "  redress."  It  is  true  that  when  his 
resignation  was  accepted  by  the  Corporation,  Dr.  Bowditch  was  present  and  did 
not  oppose  the  vote  then  passed.    He  duly  appreciated  the  graceful  and  dignified 


manners,  the  mild  and  kindly  feelings,  and  the  brilliant  talents  of  the  President, 
and  acknowledged  him  possessed  of  many  qualities  by  which  he  was  eminently 
fitted  for  the  station  he  so  long  held.  He  was  desirous  that  he  should  retire 
with  honor  from  that  station ;  and  cordially  entertaining,  as  he  did,  many  of  the 
sentiments  embodied  in  that  vote,  he  did  not  feel  himself  called  upon  to  oppose 
its  adoption ;  though  in  the  narrative  before  mentioned,  he  states  that  he  did 
not,  for  reasons  there  assigned,  give  it  his  assent  by  voting  in  the  affirmative. 

It  may  be  said  that  we  have  now  been  defending  a  parent's  memory  from 
a  mere  fancied  charge  —  one  which  you  have  not  made.  But  on  a  former 
occasion  you  have  said  of  him,  what  was,  indeed,  undoubtedly  true,  that 
"  though  '  no  rude  and  boisterous  captain  of  the  sea,'  there  may  have 
been  occasions  when  a  happier  combination  would  have  been  produced,  had 
the  same  measure  of  the  fon  titer  in  re  been  mingled  with  more  of  the  suaviter  in 
modoP  It  is  observable  that  the  words  here  quoted  by  you  bear  a  strong  resem- 
blance to  the  more  concise  newspaper  epithet  before  mentioned.  It  would 
almost  seem  that  you  must  have  had  it  in  your  mind.  Any  argument,  however, 
as  to  your  meaning  on  the  present  occasion,  is,  we  think,  unnecessary.  Nothing 
can  be  more  certain  than  that  your  remarks  were  intended  to  apply  to  Dr. 
Bowditch.  Had  they  been  made  in  his  life-time,  he  certainly  would  not  have 
left  them  unanswered.  His  children  yet  live  ;  and,  through  them,  "  though 
dead,  he  yet  speaketh." 



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